Dr. Aude Chapuis: Immunotherapy researcher

Hutch Magazine

Dr. Aude Chapuis

10 questions about life outside the lab for the Fred Hutch immunotherapy researcher

By Bill Briggs

Dr. Aude Chapuis

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch

DR. AUDE CHAPUIS FELL in love with immunology while working with HIV patients in Switzerland. As a young physician, she moved to America in 2003 to continue her science. She chose Seattle when her Swiss mentor introduced her to Dr. Phil Greenberg at Fred Hutch. That same year, Greenberg welcomed Chapuis into his lab, where she learned adoptive immunotherapy. Today, her research focuses on developing novel ways to engineer the immune system to target cancer. Who is she outside the laboratory? Recently, Chapuis sat down to tell us.

What surprised you most about American culture?
In Switzerland, you know very rapidly if a person is telling you, "I'll be polite with you but, really, I don't really want that." But here, I had to relearn non-verbal and verbal communication. Americans use a completely different code to communicate with each other compared to Europeans. If somebody (here) is telling you something, what does that mean? Does that mean "yes" or "no"? Is it "Yes, I'll do it but only if you force me to," or is it "Just to make you a favor?" I had to relearn that. But I grew more from having to learn a completely different culture.

The best music for a Sunday morning?
Right now it's French songs for my kid, [Nils, age 3]. But I like jazz.

Favorite weeknight activity with your son?
When we come home, it's just really nice to spend some time doing very simple activities with Nils. I love to come home, pour myself a glass of wine and start cooking. He'll cook with some Play-Doh. No seriously, he puts it in the oven. So — very simple, peaceful activities.

If you had to choose one hike in Washington, where would you go?
It would be the Enchantments [in the Central Cascades] or Mount Baker [also in the Cascades]. We actually did the tour of the Enchantments some time ago. It was just mind-boggling how beautiful it was. I absolutely loved the fact that you're in complete wilderness. Nobody is going to come rescue you. Unlike Switzerland, where there's always a hut at the end of the walk.

The last time and place you were on skis?
Before my son was born. It was in Switzerland. But I'm planning to put him on skis next winter. So there's no more years without skiing. Because I've been skiing every year since I was a child.

Is snowboarding in your future?
No. With a big NO. I love skiing. It's like walking. Why should I fix my feet to a board?

What's your favorite "Lord of the Rings" character?
"Sam" Gamgee. He is steadfast. He is reliable. And he never gives up hope. And that's why Frodo can actually do what he's supposed to do.

Your favorite TV show binge?
I loved "House of Cards" for sure. And this other Netflix show called "Sense8" — eight people who can feel what other people feel, and very strange things happen.

If you had a chance to share a meal with any scientist in history who would that be?
Oh man, that's a tough one. I think it would be Marie Curie. What I would be looking for with her would be really her personality and her mode of thinking.

The happiest day of your life?
When my son slept through the night.

Bill Briggs is a former Fred Hutch News Service staff writer. Follow him at @writerdude. Previously, he was a contributing writer for NBCNews.com and TODAY.com, covering breaking news, health and the military. Prior, he was a staff writer for The Denver Post, part of the newspaper's team that earned the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Columbine High School massacre. He has authored two books, including "The Third Miracle: an Ordinary Man, a medical Mystery, and a Trial of Faith."