Young Investigators

    Young Investigator Committee Members & Biographies 

    Julie Sterling, Committee Co-chair | Bram van der Eerden, Committee Co-chair

     Julie Sterling, USA - Committee Co-chair and CABS Advisory Committee Member

    Dr. Julie Sterling received her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the Medical College of Ohio in 2003, where her dissertation research focused on the transcriptional regulation of Transforming growth factor-beta receptor type II in breast cancer.  After graduating, she began her post-doctoral fellowship with Dr. Gregory Mundy at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio studying breast cancer metastasis to bone.  In 2006, she moved with Dr. Mundy and several other investigators to Vanderbilt University.  This move helped broaden her research to focus on interactions between tumor cells and the bone micro-environment, and developed her independent research program.  Dr. Sterling now has a joint appointment as a Researcher at the Department of Veterans Affairs: Tennessee Valley Healthcare System and an Assistant Professor in the Center for Bone Biology at Vanderbilt University.  Her lab uses multi-disciplinary approaches including molecular biology, pre-clinical models, engineering, and imaging to investigate how the bone micro-environment regulates tumor establishment in bone and bone destruction with a specific focus on identifying new therapeutic targets.

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    Bram van der Eerden, The Netherlands - Committee Co-chair

    I was born and raised in the Netherlands, where I studied zoology/endocrinology during my undergrad period in Utrecht University and worked on longitudinal bone growth in rat models to obtain my PhD in 2002 at the Leiden University Medical Center. Since then I worked first as junior postdoc and as a senior scientist in the calcium and bone metabolism lab of Hans van Leeuwen at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, in which I recently took over as group leader. In these years I have been mainly focusing on the role of TRPV calcium channels in bone cells but also their contribution to calcium and phosphate homeostasis. Besides, I was involved in several studies involving human genetic cases related to calcium and bone homeostasis but also DNA polymorphism studies at the population level. Currently, I am focusing more on several candidate genes as potential drug targets for bone anabolic therapies, which I obtained from extensive gene profiling studies in human mesenchymal stem cells. The most important aspect of being a postdoc to my opinion is to maintain focus. Everything is interesting and it is crucial to collaborate but I have learned that if you are involved in too many projects, things can overwhelm you and will lead to fragmentation of your research and difficulties to meet deadlines in the individual projects.

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    Mattia Capulli, Italy

    I was born in Italy, where I have attained both a bachelor and a master course in Medical Biotechnology. In 2010 I received the PhD in Biotechnology at the Bone Biopathology Laboratory of the University of L’Aquila - Italy, under the supervision of Prof. Anna Teti and Prof. Nadia Rucci. Since 2010 I have been working as a PostDoc in the same laboratory. In 2012, financed by a European Marie Curie Fellowship, I have been appointed as visiting PostDoc fellow in the Columbia University Medical Center, New York, under the supervision of Prof. Stavroula Kousteni. My PhD researches have been focused on the response of osteoblasts to the mechanical forces, and on the identification of new genes involved in that response. Recently my research interests have moved to the osteoclast biology and diseases due to the mis-function of this cell type. In particular, I am actually working on a rare genetic bone disease, the type 2 autosomal dominant osteopetrosis, and together with the Bone Biopathology and the Skeletal Diseases  groups of the University of L’Aquila I am contributing to the development of a new molecular therapy for this disease. In 2009 I received the new investigator award from the European Calcified Tissue Society, in 2010 the young investigator award from the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research and in 2015 the young investigator award from the International Conference on Children’s Bone Health.  My career goal is to reach independence and to lead a research group. I truly believe in the importance of mentors and scientific societies as a big help for the scientific growth of young researchers. My goal as a member of the young investigator committee of the IBMS is to help the society to fulfill all the needs of young scientists who decide to work in the bone research field.

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      Claire Clarkin, UK

      My research is focused on how blood vessels and endothelial cells interact with tissues and organs during development, adulthood and disease. More specifically, I am interested in how tissue derived factors such as vascular endothelial growth factor or transforming growth factor β can modulate endothelial cell behaviour. I undertook my PhD at the Royal Veterinary College, London, UK under the supervision of Professor Andrew Pitsillides and Professor Caroline Wheeler-Jones looking at the role of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) in regulating bone: endothelial cell communication which was directly followed by an Arthritis Research UK funded postdoctoral position. I was then awarded an independent fellowship and switched fields to study the role the vasculature during islet transplantation, a current treatment for Type 1 Diabetes. During this time I maintained links with the bone field and was awarded an international travel award by The Royal Society to visit the laboratory of Professor Bjorn Olsen, Harvard School of Dental Medicine and plan long term collaborative projects. I now continue to collaborate with international partners and obtained a permanent position at the University of Southampton, UK as a Lecturer in Developmental Biology. I am now establishing my own laboratory which is really exciting and my PhD students have cross disciplinary projects spanning bone imaging, orthopaedics, the vasculature in bone and osteoporosis and the treatment of diabetic ulcers. I was presented with the ASBMR Harold Frost Young Investigator Award and the British Microcirculation Society Early Career Award in 2011 and have received presentation awards from the Bone Research Society, The British Society of Matrix Biology and Diabetes UK. Being supported at an early stage of my career by these societies in combination with fantastic mentorship has without doubt helped me secure a permanent position in academia.


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      Tania Crotti, Australia

      Dr. Tania Crotti is a research active Senior Lecturer in the School of Medical Sciences at The University of Adelaide. Tania was awarded a BHealthSci (Hons) in 1997 then worked as a Research assistant in the Department of Pathology, University of Adelaide.  She completed her PhD on the mechanisms responsible for pathological bone remodeling in inflammatory conditions in 2002 (funded by a Dora Lush, NHMRC Scolarship).  The publications arising from this work contributed to defining the cellular source and role of the RANKL/OPG system in pathological bone resorption in inflammatory arthritis and peri-implant osteolysis associated with failed orthopedic implants.

      Tania subsequently worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston USA.  She was awarded a CJ Martin, NHMRC Fellowship to characterize the mechanisms regulating expression of the beta 3 integrin gene during osteoclast differentiation. Tania’s postdoctoral work has been recognized in her receipt of several research awards including a Novartis Young Investigator Award at the Joint Meeting of the ECT/IBMs in Geneva, Switzerland (2005); the ASBMR Harold M. Frost Young Investigator Award at the International Sun Valley Workshop on Skeletal Biology (2005), and most recently a John Haddad Young Investigator Award from AIMMS and ASBMR (2008) Colorado, USA. 

      Tania returned to Adelaide during 2008 to continue her work in the emerging field of Osteoimmunology. Her main research focus is to unravel the mediators of osteoclast differentiation and activation in order to arrest the localized bone loss associated with diseases such as peri-implant loosening, periodontal disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis. She was appointed to a Lecturing position in 2011 and in 2013 was the recipient of a Faculty of Health Sciences Executive Dean’s Learning and Teaching Prize and Development Award. Tania is currently the Post Graduate Coordinator for the School of Medical Sciences and is actively involved in the supervision of Honours and PhD students. Where possible, she encourages students to present their research at local, national and international scientific meetings, and to be published.  She believes that exposure to other research is extremely important as it stimulates and motivates the students further, provides students with networking opportunities, and provides an opportunity to approach other groups on issues of trouble-shooting.

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      Roy Heusschen, Belgium

      I studied biomedical sciences at the KU Leuven (Belgium). After graduating in 2007, I started working as a PhD student in the angiogenesis laboratory at Maastricht University and the VU University Amsterdam (the Netherlands) under the supervision of dr. Victor Thijssen and prof. Arjan Griffioen. I studied the role of a family of carbohydrate-binding proteins, galectins, in tumor angiogenesis and I received a PhD in 2013. I’m currently a post-doc in the hematology laboratory of the University of Liège (Belgium) where I perform research under the supervision of dr. Jo Caers and prof. Yves Beguin. Our research group is interested in the mechanisms underlying osteolytic bone disease in multiple myeloma. My appetite for sugar carries over into my research as I continue to study the role of galectins in this process and I’m fascinated by the interplay between glycobiology and bone biology in the context of cancer. My goal is to continue this research and work towards a junior group leader position. I’m passionate about popularized science communication and promoting science literacy. The stories of molecular biology are wonderful and deserve a wider audience.

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      Rachelle Whitney Johnson, USA 

      I am originally from the southeast United States and graduated from the University of Georgia in 2007 with a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Immediately following graduation I began graduate school at Vanderbilt University where I studied bone metastatic breast cancer with Dr. Gregory Mundy in the Vanderbilt Center for Bone Biology and earned my doctorate in Cancer Biology. Shortly after my defense in August 2011, I relocated to Melbourne, Australia to pursue a post-doc with Drs. Natalie Sims and Jack Martin in basic bone biology in order to better understand the physiological processes of skeletal homeostasis that may impact upon tumor cells. As a postdoc in Melbourne I characterized the skeletal phenotype of several glycoprotein-130 (gp130) and SOCS3 (a gp130 downstream target) bone conditional knockout mouse models and gained experience in mouse genetics, bone histomorphometry, and microCT. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in Amato Giaccia’s laboratory at Stanford University, where I have returned to the bone metastasis field. My current work is focused on the mechanisms driving tumor cell dormancy in bone and the molecular processes that enable disseminated tumor cells to colonize the bone. In particular I am interested in the role of leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) signaling and hypoxia signaling in breast cancer dissemination and metastasis to the bone marrow.

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      Penelope Ottewell, UK

      I have been working in the field of breast cancer associated bone disease for the past 9-years and have recently been appointed a faculty position in the Mellanby Centre for Bone Biology at the University of Sheffield UK. My research focuses on using in vivo and humanised models of breast cancer bone metastasis to look at molecular changes that promote movement of breast cancer cells from the primary site to the skeleton and how combining different therapies can be used to treat this condition. I have published a total of 27 journal articles and 49 peer reviewed abstracts in this area as well as being awarded 10 national and international prizes for my work (including the IBMS Gregory Mundy Career Development Fellowship in 2011).  In addition to my academic credentials I have considerable experience serving on committees. In 2007 I was part of the team who established the University of Sheffield, Medicine and Dentistry Research Staff Association (MDRS) in which I served as Social Secretary between 2007-2008 and I was elected as president from 2008-2011. During my time on this committee I played a lead role in setting up the ‘Think Ahead’ Research Training and Development programme for post-doctoral researchers, established a grant scheme to enable post-doctoral scientists to apply for small pots of money for travel/innovation grants and organised training seminars. I have also served on the faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, Early Careers Working Group Committee and the University of Sheffield, Graduate Research Development Committee. My current committee commitments include being a member of the University of Sheffield ethics review panel, in 2014 I was elected onto the executive committee of the British Association for Cancer Research and in 2015 I joined the International Bone and Mineral Society Young Investigator Committee.

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      Nicole Walsh, Australia

      I completed my PhD in biochemistry at the University of Queensland (Brisbane, Australia) in 2003. I then moved to Boston, USA where I worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Prof. Ellen Gravallese at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, Harvard Institutes of Medicine and later UMass Medical School  (Worcester, USA). It was during this time that I applied my knowledge of bone cell biology to determine the effect of inflammatory arthritis on bone formation; I was the first to associate increased expression of Wnt signalling antagonists with impaired bone formation in rheumatoid arthritis. In 2009, I moved back to Australia to join St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne where I am now Head of the Arthritis Research Laboratory. I have extended her research focus to the study of bone changes in osteoarthritis. My studies utilise animal models of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, micro-computed tomography, histology, bone histomorphometry, immunohistochemistry and in vitro cell culture to identify factors that contribute to inflammation and joint destruction in these degenerative joint disease, with the ultimate goal of identifying novel therapeutic strategies to improve patient outcomes.

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      Fumiko Yano, Japan

      I studied dentistry in Kagoshima University, Japan. After dental residency training at the department of oral surgery in the University of Tokyo Hospital, I joined Dr. Ung-il Chung’s lab as Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tokyo, and the main focus of my project was to investigate the cartilage regeneration. I received my Ph.D. degree in 2006, subsequently worked as an assistant professor to develop the disease modifying osteoarthritis drug (DMOAD) including elucidation of molecular mechanism in chondrogenic differentiation. I will contribute to the understanding of osteoarthritis and their underlying cellular and molecular biological mechanism by combining the expertise of Dr. Taku Saito and Dr. Sakae Tanaka, who are specialists for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, also orthopaedic surgeons at the department of bone & cartilage regenerative medicine, the University of Tokyo.

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      Mark Forwood, IBMS Board of Directors Liaison

      Professor Mark Forwood was appointed by invitation as the Foundation Chair of Anatomy at Griffith University in 2009. His laboratory studies skeletal adaptation, stress fracture healing bone quality, and optimization of sterilization conditions for bone allografts. His group uses innovative animal models to understand mechanisms of tissue adaptation and biomechanics. These include microscopy, histomorphometry, immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, gene expression, and mechanical testing. These studies are funded by grants from National Health and Medical Research Council. He was a NHMRC Fellow at Indiana University with Professors David Burr and Charles Turner from 1991-1994, following which, he returned to head his own laboratory at The University of Queensland. In 2007, he was awarded a Christine and TJ Martin Fellowship from the ANZBMS to undertake 12 months visiting Professorship with Pierre Delmas in Lyon. He has provided excellent service to the Bone and Mineral Profession, being a member of the Council of ANZBMS from 1997 to 2005. During his tenure he served as the Treasurer of the ANZBMS for 3 terms from 1999-2005. He has been a member of the IBMS since 1996, acting on the Scientific committee and Chairman of the Local Organizing Committee for the 3rd IOF-ANZBMS Asia Pacific Meeting in 2006, the IOF-ANZBMS 2nd Asia Pacific Regionals Meeting, in Australia in 2011 and IBMS Co-Chair of the Scientific Committee for the ICOBR in Xiamen China in 2014. He is a member of the Editorial Board of Bone and a section editor (Skeletal Biology) for Current Osteoporosis Reports. 

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