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New Faculty Focus: Suzana Salcedo

October 18, 2023

Suzana Salcedo: Associate Professor of Immunology of Infectious Diseases, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine

Hometown: I was born in Redwood City, California, but I moved to Porto, Portugal, when I was five. This is where I grew up, so Porto is my hometown.

Educational/professional background: B.A. in Microbiology at the Biotechnology School – Catholic University of Portugal (Porto, Portugal); M.Sc. and Ph.D. at Imperial College London (UK); INSERM researcher at the Immunology Institute CIML, Aix-Marseille University (France); INSERM Research Director at Molecular Microbiology and Structural Biology Institute, University of Lyon (France).

Suzana Salcedo

What is your field of research, and how did you get into it? Growing up, I was fascinated with the microscopic world around us. I became interested in how bacteria colonize humans, animals, and the environment, survive extreme conditions, and sometimes cause disease. Once I started looking down the microscope to see how bacteria infect cells, there was no turning back.

What attracted you to UW–Madison? My research is focused on studying bacterial pathogens and how they trick the immune system to cause disease. The bacteria I am studying are important human and veterinary pathogens. So, I felt that the School of Veterinary Medicine at UW–Madison was an ideal environment for me to continue these research projects.

What was your first visit to campus like? After a long trip from France and 48 hours of non-stop discussions, presentations, delicious food, and formal interviews, I felt exhilarated, full of ideas, and could not get rid of the smile on my face. I knew instantly this would be an excellent place for me.

The pandemic forced us all to reconsider many things we took for granted. Is there something you’ve learned that has helped you through these challenging times, personally or professionally? I was very ill right at the beginning of the pandemic when I first caught COVID and had to step back from work for a while to recover. I was very fortunate to have a fantastic team of students, postdocs and research assistants who kept me connected to the science while independently running the lab. I realized how important the positive, kind, and collaborative environment we had created over the years was for us to overcome those challenging times. I also learned that it was very difficult to homeschool my kids on French grammar during lockdown!

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how. Yes, absolutely. Studying infectious diseases to help find new ways to combat them will directly benefit our communities and will help protect livestock, companion animals, and wildlife and stop the spread of antibiotic resistance.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties? Many bacterial pathogens have dedicated “nano syringe-like” secretion systems to inject proteins into target cells. These proteins can be deadly when fired into competing bacteria or, when injected into human or animal cells, divert defense mechanisms and help to cause disease.

Hobbies/other interests: Hiking out of the 5G range. Spending time with family-friends, laughing, and sharing stories. Traveling to explore places I have never been before and learn about other cultures.