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Dr Julius Clemence Hafalla and Dr Maria Ocampo-Hafalla

Julius' research

My research investigates factors that govern the magnitude, efficiency and long-term maintenance of protective T cell responses to the initial stages of malaria infection. By combining tools in bioinformatics and immunology, we have identified novel fragments of malaria proteins that are targeted by immune T cells. In addition, using tools in experimental genetics, we are defining whether the ‘best’ targets of T cells are expressed in distinct stages and/or in specific compartments during parasite development. The goal of my research is to contribute to our knowledge of the basic immunity to the malaria parasite as a bridge to the rational development of malaria vaccines.

Maria's research

My research interest is the maintenance of genomic integrity. Previous work focused on the mechanisms of DNA damage and repair and chromosome segregation. Throughout university, postgraduate and postdoctoral years, I remained passionate about public engagement in science. When the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute became part of the Francis Crick Institute, I embraced the opportunity to join the Education Team. I enjoy the development and delivery of innovative and inclusive science education and outreach activities, with the goals of inspiring the next generation, increasing scientific literacy and enabling aspiration and attainment in STEM.

Our journey

Having met in post-graduate school, we understood early on both the demands and rewards of our vocation. We worked long hours, and we made sacrifices, but we also enjoyed the fruits of our labour. Through the years, we have by some means succeeded in having two complementary careers, not always by precise preparation, but by working as a team and seizing opportunities as they came – including moving to the UK. When our daughter was born, she became our priority. With our families far away (Philippines and USA), it's been challenging sometimes, but the same supportive environment and values (persistence, collaboration, creativity) that shaped my scientific career have been key ingredients in building a rewarding family life.

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