Sebastian Joyce, PhD’88
When Sebastian Joyce arrived on the MCV Campus to pursue his Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology in the early 1980s, he’d come farther than most: more than 12,000 miles, from Bangalore, India.
“I was as fresh off the boat as it gets,” says Joyce, “and I left a man. I came here a peasant, and walked away a scholar.”
He credits his transformation to the freedom he was given by his mentor T. Mohanakumar, D.V.M., Ph.D., to think independently and pursue scientific discovery in his own way.
He’s still doing that today. As a professor in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt University, he’s developing the unconventional approach of using T cell-targeted vaccines against infectious diseases.
“He is on the cutting-edge of finding the most effective approaches for preventing infection,” says Phillip B. Hylemon, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and immunology who was on Joyce’s dissertation committee when he was a Ph.D. candidate in the 1980s.
Joyce described his novel approaches to vaccine development when he spoke at VCU earlier this month at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology’s Research Seminar Series. “Vaccines are man’s greatest inventions,” he told his audience as he enthusiastically recounted for them his lab’s efforts to design vaccines to prevent and treat infectious diseases that plague humankind.
Joyce’s creative and innovative science has won him sustained grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, and his publication record includes the prestigious Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Nurturing the next generation of scientists is a priority for Joyce. He challenged established scientists to take seriously their responsibility to their trainees with the sentiment expressed in his own lab’s motto: “Inspire young minds: to wonder and imagine; to explore and innovate; to discover and evolve.”
5 Commandments for Young Scientists
1. Be curious
2. Read widely and think broadly about everything, and particularly your own project
3. Question everything, especially dogma
4. Devise simple yet clever experiments
5. Find answers by yourself
Joyce also spoke directly to the students in the audience, encouraging them with his 5 Commandments for Young Scientists. On his last commandment — “Find answers by yourself” — Joyce challenged students: “You don’t have to listen to the gray haired, the balding [older generation] or go to them with all your questions. If they already knew all the answers, there would be no point in you doing the experiment!”
Read about Joyce’s scientific odyssey on the his lab website.