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01 May 2019

5 minutes with Dr Patricia Barral

Dr Patricia Barral is a Lecturer in Immunobiology in the Peter Gorer Department of Immunobiology and her lab is currently seconded to the Francis Crick Institute.

Dr Patricia Barral
Patricia Barral

Patricia’s research interests include understanding the early events controlling lymphocyte activation and how those modulate immune responses. We took 5 minutes to interview Dr Barral to hear about the advice she would give her 18-year-old-self and where her research is heading in the next five years.

Briefly, tell me about your background and career up to this point at King’s? 

I obtained my PhD at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (in Spain), working on the mechanisms controlling immune responses in allergy. Then I moved to London to do my postdoc with Facundo Batista (at the London Research Institute), where we used in vivo imaging techniques to study the cellular interactions regulating lymphocyte activation. In 2013 I joined King’s as a lecturer and at present, my lab is seconded at The Francis Crick Institute.

What research are you currently working on?

We are interested in understanding the early events controlling lymphocyte activation and how those modulate immune responses. We specifically focus on immune responses to lipids (both endogenous and from microbes) exploring how the immune system handles lipids, which are the mechanisms that mediate lipid recognition by immune cells and which are the consequences for human health when these processes are dysregulated.

What is a typical day like for you?

There is no such thing as a typical day. Every day is different and normally involves meetings, grant and paper writing, teaching and admin duties and discussing results with the lab.

Where is your research area heading in the next five years?

We are starting to explore how changes in cellular metabolism control the repertoire of lipid antigens present in the cells how this, in turn, affects the activation of lipid-reactive T cells. We are quite excited as this is a very novel area which can have major implications for autoimmune diseases and cancer.

What would you like members of our school to most know about you and your research area?

Lipids are relevant in all types of immune responses, so there is always a lipid-angle in any project you might be working on. I am always happy to discuss new collaborations and ideas.

What is your favourite part of your current role?

The freedom to pursue my own ideas

What do you do with your time outside of academia?

I really enjoy leaving in London. There are always plenty of things to do and perhaps my favourite is going to see dance performances. I also enjoy reading, going to the cinema, meeting with friends and I recently took up running (although with mixed results!).

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? 

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes


Favourite Movie: It is very difficult to pick just one. I recently watched Persepolis (based on a comic book from Marjane Satrapi) and I thought it was beautiful

Favourite Book: I have been reading a lot of Paul Auster lately and I enjoyed The New York Trilogy. One of my all-time favourites is Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Favourite TV Show: I get easily addicted to box-sets. I enjoy watching any old episode of Friends, and from the most recent series, I liked The Handmade’s tale.

Favourite Scientist: Difficult to choose one, but if I have to I will choose Marie Curie.