Briefly describe your research? How did you get interested in this area of study?
As a student, I’ve always been interested in cancer biology, immunology, and biomedical science. I’m also an advocate for cancer research — and am especially interested in breast cancer biology and the way Black women are disproportionately affected by the disease.
When exploring research ideas, I looked into different cancer pathways and mechanisms that were based in immunology. I took an interest in the “Hippo pathway,” and wanted to investigate its connection to breast cancer. I learned that the pathway has many effects on different cancer cell lines, but I was particularly interested in its connection to triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) — which has none of the receptors commonly found in breast cancer.
TNBC lacks receptors that control cellular proliferation, so my research targeted the Hippo pathway as a way to control its proliferation using Staurosporine, a drug that activates the Hippo pathway. My goal was to connect these three entities, and to understand how they could affect the progression of TNBC.
Is there a professor who’s been particularly supportive or helpful with your research and development? If so, reflect a bit on that relationship?
My research advisor Dr. Rebecca Haberman has been my biggest supporter. I remember struggling and feeling unconfident about my research abilities during junior seminar — the preliminary class for our thesis — and feeling nervous about senior seminar in the fall. But the moment I chose Dr. Haberman as my advisor, she welcomed me with open arms, and has been in my corner ever since.
She’s been incredibly encouraging, thoughtful, accessible, and kind throughout this whole journey. She has guided me through every single question I’ve had, through every thesis revision, and every aspect of my research. She has been such an amazing and integral part of my being able to complete this work, and I am so thankful for her.
Do you think this opportunity has helped prepare you for future career success?
The opportunity to perform an independent research project has been very beneficial. At most undergraduate institutions research is conducted in a group or cohort, and the topic is chosen by professors. So, the fact that MBU encourages each senior student to work individually with an advisor to create and undertake a custom research project is remarkable.
This project allowed me to work at something very close to the graduate level, and that has enabled me to understand what a future in medical research will look like. This project was eye-opening and has tremendously boosted my confidence about a career in biology.
Tell us about your plans for after graduation?
I’m in the process of applying to a graduate biochemistry program at North Carolina State University. In the future, I plan to pursue research in the biomedical sciences, and eventually a doctorate in medicine to focus on pediatrics.