Similar to most children, Dr. Avery August performed his first makeshift experiments at home. This is when he came to the simple yet life-changing realization that you can observe and draw conclusions to explain what happens in the natural world. This happened when he noticed a red bean he planted sprouted and grew towards the light source. Ever since this realization, he began to put down his own roots down in science.
Growing up as a child in Belize, he credits many influences in his journey through science including a marine biologist/Peace Corp volunteer/biology teacher for ushering him towards this path. Today, August’s passions in science can be divided into two themes: the excitement of discoveries and the love of mentoring students.
The joy of natural discoveries
Since his first natural observation on the red bean plant, August has traversed through the world of research, gaining his first formal research experience in a biophysics lab that focused on studying membrane structure in order to better understand lipid dynamics in model organisms. He then went on to matriculate into Weill Cornell’s graduate program in immunology. During this time as a graduate student, he most notably made a discovery that followed him into his tenured professorship at Cornell. During his graduate education, August discovered that the protein Interleukin-2 Inducible T cell kinase (ITK) is critical in regulating T cell receptor signaling. This journey started with the simple observation of a single band on a gel and seeing it was responsive towards T cell activation. He then dove into the literature and found reagents in order to show the band on the gel was ITK. He came to the novel conclusion that this family of kinase was involved in T cell signaling. This process took about a year and served as another critical root in his career in science.
The circle of science
In addition to making many impactful discoveries in immunology, August is also busy helping new scientists make discoveries of their own by running his lab and mentoring others. When asked for his favorite scientific memory that ranged from his first experiment on a red bean plant in Belize to present day, he quickly recalled being an audience member in his first graduate student’s thesis defense. August explained this was the point where his journey “came full circle.” Throughout his journey, he credits many for his success and in turn, he has dedicated his tenure to make sure others are also able to pursue the joy of natural discoveries.
Dr. August is a Professor of Immunology within the Veterinary College and is on the CVM Blog’s Board of Editors. Click here to read his retrospective and learn more about Dr. August.
By Cybelle Tabilas, Graduate student in Immunology and Infectious Diseases