Dear friends and colleagues,
The Departments of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and Molecular Metabolism announce the appointment of Professor Barbara Burleigh as Professor Emeritus in the faculty of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Professor Burleigh has closed her lab after a long career of ground-breaking research in cell biology and metabolism of Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease. Her last student graduated this year and Barbara decided it was time to close this chapter. She is an internationally recognized leader in the mechanistic biology of T. cruzi infection using mammalian cell biology, molecular genetics and advanced omics approaches. Her work has informed our understanding of fundamental aspects of the parasitic life cycle, parasitic metabolism, drug responses and antigenic diversity.
Barbara is a pioneer in identifying host cell pathogen interactions that define the pathobiology and course of infection. Her first work focused on understanding how T. cruzi invaded mammalian cells – the parasite is first taken up by a mechanism akin to phagocytosis, transported to the lysosome and then escapes the lysosome to replicate in the infected cells cytoplasm. Barbara’s lab elucidated the key molecular mechanisms in this pathway – the parasite hijacks the mammalian cell machinery both to evade intrinsic defense mechanisms and to enable parasite replication. She was a visionary in recognizing that an understanding of the role of mammalian host cell in establishing and maintaining infection was the key to understanding pathogenesis. Her work to define the metabolic interface between the host and parasite has led to the identification of essential mammalian pathways for parasite survival and changed the paradigm for new drug discovery approaches. Her most recent work has revealed the interaction of host mitochondria with the intracellular parasite and a central role for lipid metabolism in shaping parasite development. Her metabolic analysis opened a whole new area of inquiry for the chronic infection which leads to the debilitating consequences of Chagas disease including cardiomyopathy.
Barbara is an inspired teacher and mentor. She has trained over 40 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and served as an advisor to many more. Her trainees have gone on to leadership positions in academia, government and the private sector. Her critical thinking helped define the standard for Dissertation Advisory Committees. She has been a valued leader in the Biological Sciences in Public Health Graduate Program at Harvard, serving as Director of Admissions, chairing many PQE and DAC committees, and acting as IDP mentor for several students. Additionally, she served for multiple years in the foundational Biology of Parasitism course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, which she directed between 2019-2022. In the lab and in the classroom, she taught generations of future scientific leaders to be creative thinkers, rigorous experimentalists and clear communicators. Dr. Burleigh is also deeply committed to supporting diversity in STEM, serving for many years on the Committee for the Advancement of Women Faculty, which she chaired from 2012-2015. Dr. Burleigh’s groundbreaking research on T. cruzi and her remarkable mentorship legacy will carry global impact for years to come.
With gratitude to Barbara for her contributions to global health research, the School and the department,
SARAH FORTUNE, MD | Chair and John LaPorte Given Professor
Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
665 Huntington Ave., SPH 1, Room 809 | Boston, MA 02115