DEPARTMENT OF IMMUNOLOGY
Description of the scientific field
Immunology is a branch of biology that investigates the defence mechanisms of the body. The main function of the immune system is to discriminate between self and non-self-structures; moreover, it is able to identify hazard and respond to these inputs in different ways. In this sense, the immune system is a system for recognition, transmission of information and effector (executive, destroying) functions.
The immune system „ignores” the structures recognised as self and responds with tolerance to them. The structures recognised as non-self induce immune response that leads to the neutralization, destruction and elimination of the antigen that triggered the response. Immune homeostasis relies on the recognition of altered self and non-self structures entering the body and on the immune response they generate.
The Department of Immunology at ELTE was the first immunological department established in Hungary and even today it is the only one dedicated exclusively to immunological sciences. The knowledge and interest (both in teaching and research) of the members of the department covers the whole spectrum of immunology and immune homeostasis ranging from innate to adaptive immunity. Parallel to the basic or discovery research projects, applied research plays important role, as well.
These goals are well represented by our individual researcher-teacher members at all levels of education at the University from BSc and MSc to PhD. Some of our research projects rely on collaborations with pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, that enables our students to get insight into how research findings can be applied. The research projects at our department attract many BSc, MSc and PhD students who are then involved in these investigations.
The Department of Immunology has research projects investigating both innate (linked to immune homeostasis) and adaptive immunity and the integrated operation of these two arms of the immune system. In many cases the goal of the investigations is the better understanding of pathological conditions of the immune system and discovering early diagnostic tools to detect these diseases in time or to contribute to the effective treatment of them with knew knowledge.
Current research projects at the Department of Immunology:
- The interplay between the human innate (complement system) and adaptive immunity.
- The role of normal and mutant complement factor H (FH), FH-related proteins, and that of FH-specific autoantibodies in ocular and renal diseases.
- Describing the role and enumerating different B lymphocyte populations in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), that play crucial role in the pathogenesis of the disease.
- Investigating the diversity of the B lymphocyte repertoire in rheumatoid arthritis and myeloma multiplex with next generation sequencing (NGS) and bioinformatics analysis of the data.
- Developing cell-based assays for pharmaceutical companies as part of our immune biotechnological research and development activity.
We use up-to-date classical immunological, cell- and molecular biological methods to investigate the above-mentioned topics. We realize these research projects in national as well as international collaboration with partners from the academic field, pharmaceutical companies and clinical investigators.
Currently, we have four workgroups at the Department, supported by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the National Research, Development and Innovation Office. The research activity of the Department results in 15-20 publications in top journals of the scientific field yearly.
Life at the Department of Immunology
Besides biologists, doctors, veterinarians, physicists and bioinformaticians are welcome to join our department.
The Department of Immunology is continuously popular among the talented students. At the moment, 10 doctoral students and 13 undergraduate students work with us. Moreover, a significant number of students choose immunology as the topic of their BSc thesis.
Each year, our department maintains its "team building" on a sports day, which is typically hold at the ELTE water sports facility, doing dragon boating, kayaking and cooking Hungarian kettle goulash.
The Hungarian Society for Immunology (Magyar Immunológiai Társaság, MIT in Hungarian) provides a great opportunity for the gathering and promotes scientific discussion of the country's immunological research groups as their Conferences/Annual Meetings are held each year around October.
Our primary goal is to train researchers who will work in the field of immunology after obtaining their PhD degree. These experts are needed both at universities and in research projects all around the world. The knowledge in immunology is highly appreciated since several diseases have an immunological background; moreover, the latest treatments are therapeutical antibodies (biologicals). To this end, both national and international research institutes, hospitals, pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies seek for immunologists and further carrier options are offered for who are specialized in biotechnology (e.g., development of antibody based therapies).
How can I become an immunologist?
The easiest way to start is studying biology BSc at ELTE. As a university student, everyone has the opportunity the take immunological courses and join one of the research teams at our Department. The next step is MSc in Molecular-, Immuno- and Microbiology, where even more lectures and practical courses are available in immunology and the related scientific fields. University students at all levels (even during BSc) are welcome at the Department of Immunology to gain hands-on experience in immunology research.
Highest education of the future immunologists is finished with a 4-year doctoral programme in immunology at the Doctorate School in Biology at ELTE. Prerequisites to defend a PhD thesis are MSc degree, excellent scientific research and appropriate knowledge in English, and personal qualities like endurance, motivation and creativity.
Where and how can I apply to join the Department of Immunology as a student?
Students interested can apply by writing an email to the professor whose research group they would like to join. The e-mail addresses can be found here.