UT Health San Antonio has appointed Laurence Morel, PhD, to chair the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine, effective June 13, 2022. Dr. Morel is a noted researcher of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Dr. Morel obtained her PhD from the University of Aix-Marseille (France). She trained as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Ward Wakeland at the University of Florida in immunogenetics, where she started to work on the genetic basis of lupus in mouse models. She was appointed with a faculty position in the Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine at UF in 1999, where she rose to the rank of tenured professor and vice chair for research and academic affairs.
Her research has centered on the mechanisms of lupus pathogenesis using mouse models as well as patients’ samples. Her current projects focus on the genetic and metabolic determinants of lupus phenotypes in CD4+ T cells, as well as the role of the microbiome in lupus pathogenesis. She is also conducting preclinical studies to explore the therapeutic potentials of treatments combining metabolic inhibitors to standard-of-care or emerging biologics. Her long-term goal is to identify and validate therapeutic targets using a combination of genetic, metabolic and microbial/metabolomics approaches.
“Dr. Morel has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health, as well as by the Lupus Research Alliance and the Lupus Foundation for America, for her research efforts,” said Robert Hromas, MD, FACP, dean of the Long School of Medicine, in announcing Dr. Morel’s appointment. “She is widely considered an expert not only in mouse models of SLE but also in other autoimmune diseases. Her curriculum vitae shows an enviable body of work, both in terms of peer-reviewed research articles as well as numerous invited reviews, speaking engagements, and national and international service.”
She is a gifted mentor and has trained numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows over the years. Many of her prior mentees are currently flourishing with their own scientific careers. She has been heavily involved in graduate education throughout her career, as well as in faculty development and mentoring, first as the division chief of the Experimental Pathology Division at UF, then as vice chair for research and academic affairs.
Her work-life balance integrates physical activity (running, yoga as favorites), reading mystery novels and French literature, and outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking. Her husband, Robert Vander Meer, PhD, is a research chemist working on fire ants and chemical ecology for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. He is in the process of closing his lab and will move later to San Antonio.
Dr. Hromas thanked Mike Berton, PhD, for excellent efforts as interim chair of the department. Dr. Morel was selected after an extensive national search led by Manzoor Bhat, PhD, and Chris Walter, PhD, of UT Health San Antonio.