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T32 PIRE Directors

Program Director – Stephen Tomlinson, Ph.D.

Dr. Tomlinson is Professor and Vice Chair for Research and Faculty Development in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He earned his doctorate at Cambridge University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Florida. In 1991, he was appointed to the faculty of New York University School of Medicine, and he moved to MUSC in 2000. Dr. Tomlinson has an outstanding record of funding from federal sources and foundations, and has been continuously funded by the NIH since he became an independent investigator. In 2011, he was appointed as a PI/Research Health Scientist with the Veteran’s Administration.

Dr. Tomlinson has authored more than 140 publications and is a highly interactive and collaborative scientist, as evidenced by numerous joint publications with other MUSC faculty. He is also a recognized educator at MUSC and has trained 8 Ph.D. students and M.D./Ph.D. students, numerous summer/rotation and medical students, and more than 20 postdoctoral fellows. A total of 10 of his students/postdocs have received individual extramural fellowship funding (not from training programs). His primary departmental responsibility as vice chair is mentorship, and as such he developed, instituted and directs a new program to develop the research careers of junior faculty.

Dr. Tomlinson also has entrepreneurial experience; his work in the area of complement regulation has been the foundation for 25 invention disclosures and 132 patent applications in more than 50 countries, with 53 patents issued. He was elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2015.

Co-Director – Zihai Li, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Li is a physician scientist leader who is a board-certified medical oncologist as well as a chair of a basic science department. He also holds a South Carolina Center of Excellence Endowed Chair in Stem Cell Biology. Dr. Zihai Li obtained his medical degree from Henan Medical University, and his MS degree in immunology at the Peking Union Medical College under the mentorship of the late Prof. Shaowen Xie (aka Samuel Zia, a Harvard-trained Rickettsia microbiologist who was widely known as the father of microbiology in modern China). He then earned his Ph.D. from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, followed by clinical training in internal medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and in medical oncology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. After 11 years of running an NIH-funded tumor immunology laboratory at the University of Connecticut, he moved to MUSC in 2010 and is now the tenured professor chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. He is also the Cancer Immunology program leader within MUSC’s NCI-designated Hollings Cancer Center.

Dr. Li has published extensively on the topics of tumor immunology, immune tolerance, and heat shock protein biology in journals such as J Exp Med, EMBO J, PNAS, J Clin Invest, Immunity, Blood, Nature Medicine, J Immunol and Nature Communications. He is an elected member of the prestigious American Society of Clinical Investigation and serves as a permanent member for the NIH Innate Immunity and Inflammation study section. Other awards include a physician scientist award from the NCI and a clinical scholarship from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Dr. Li has been actively involved in education and has served on thesis committees for 29 graduate students (Ph.D., M.D./Ph.D. and MS students) and has trained 19 postdoctoral fellows. A vast majority of these trainees remain in academia.