Ellen Dobson '05

Dr. Ellen Dobson earned her Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology & BioInformatics from UW-Parkside in 2005. While attending Parkside, she entered the laboratory of Dr. Carmel Ruffolo, studying the causative agent of fowl cholera, Pasteurella multocida, for completion of her undergraduate thesis research. That experience is what solidified her interest in bacterial pathogenesis and prepared her for the next stage in her scientific training as a Ph.D. candidate in the laboratory of Dr. B. Brett Finlay at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Dr. Dobson’s doctoral research focused mainly on tissue microbiology, specifically on the characterization of Salmonella typhimurium infection of the gallbladder during an acute, murine model of typhoid fever. 

During her doctoral training, Dr. Dobson was first introduced to imaging, where she carried out mainly wide-field microscopy, as well as a small amount of electron microscopy. As a result of this exposure, a genuine interest was formed. For the next step in her scientific training, she therefore aimed to continue studies of the host’s response to invading pathogens during her postdoctoral work. However, she also wanted to expand her experience in optical microscopy, choosing a research environment that would allow her to regularly apply advanced imaging techniques. Dr. Dobson found exactly that within the laboratory of Philippe Sansonetti at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France.

During the first years of her postdoctoral training within the Sansonetti laboratory, Dr. Dobson’s interest and training in microscopy grew considerably. She was not only applying multiple imaging modalities and basic analysis methods within her own research, but she also attended various courses and conferences to better improve her knowledge, as she continually sought more extensive training outside the biological confines of her own laboratory. Dr. Dobson also shifted her research focus within the Sansonetti laboratory towards projects where she could put her new skills to full use, projects whose primary focus was the application of imaging and analysis methodologies.

As time went on, Dr. Dobson became more driven by the desire to develop and apply new technologies to better understand dynamic biological phenomena rather than limiting herself to the pursuit of a single biological question. As a result, she found herself drawn towards an environment that engages in software development within a biological context, directly linking imaging to biology. The laboratory of Dr. Kevin Eliceiri, the Laboratory of Optical and Computational Instrumentation (LOCI), at the University of Wisconsin - Madison provided exactly such an environment.  Dr. Dobson carried out a second postdoc with Dr. Eliceiri training in software development of the open source software ImageJ, integrating improved statistical algorithms within those computational tools that could be applied directly towards quantitative image analysis within relevant biological models. She now works as an Assistant Scientist at LOCI, and her main role is in training new ImageJ users, assisting them with their image analysis workflows, as well as running regular training workshops and outreach activities. Dr. Dobson is truly passionate about the interdisciplinary field of microscopy and bioimaging, which for her represents the perfect balance of science, collaboration, and innovation. 

Dr. Dobson is also very passionate about the field of Career Development, working closely with the UW-Madison Office of Postdoctoral Studies and the Morgridge Institute for Research in designing and delivering career development programming for postdoctoral researchers and staff scientists on campus. Therefore, her drive is not solely on the study of science, but on how to best work with other scientists to help them reach their full potential in their own careers as well.  Ultimately, Dr. Dobson’s goal is to aid scientists in their own research and career pursuits, as well as advocating for them to the broader community.

Dr. Dobson and her husband, Justin, are expecting their first child in January 2021. They reside in the lovely city of Madison, WI, where they enjoy hiking, cooking, traveling, and tasting great Wisconsin beer.

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