Why do Science?

The Dr. Gayathri R. Devi lab revolves around translational and clinical applications of cell death signaling. Since this is a very broad topic, it allows Dr. Devi to take multiple avenues to conduct research. Her passion for research started as an undergraduate student in All India Institute of Medical Science (AIMS) located in New Delhi, India. There she had the opportunity to explore her options, and decided to pursue a science career. Her choice was between a practicing physician or clinical translational research. She decided to pursue clinical translational research because it allows for the bridging between both bench and bedside patient work. She felt that such type of work best fitted her personal qualities and her goals to help the scientific and public community. Clinical translational research allows for creativity; it allows you to be wrong, and even when you are wrong, you learn something new. It was with this form of thinking that Dr. Devi continued her career path and went on to receive her Masters in Biochemistry and her Ph.D. in both Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Dr. Devi discovered the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) binding domain during her time under a Nebraska Research Initiative Biotechnology Fellowship. This discovery led her to her postdoctoral fellowship at the Oregon Health and Sciences University, where she studied growth factors and prostate cancer. After years of research and hard work, she transitioned to a position at Duke University in 2005. Her time at Duke has been amazing in her perspective. She enjoys interacting not only with postdoctoral associates and graduate students, but also with undergraduate students. She truly believes that her work goes beyond just doing research on inflammatory breast cancer, but also incorporates training the next generation of scientist and creating a community between all participants in the lab where everyone learns from each other. As mentioned previously, being wrong is still learning, and there is always opportunity in this. Dr. Devi once challenged a grad student working in her lab on the ability of a protein, X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP), to increase tumor growth of IBC. Both had a different hypothesis regarding the protein, but the graduate hypothesis was correct in that XIAP played a role in apoptosis and tumor growth. Dr. Devi’s lab thus moved forward and learned more about IBC, and such discovery has allowed her research to continue to grow.

Dr. Devi has had many people to keep her lab running over the years, including a graduate student who joined last year, named Risa Gearhart-Serna. Risa is my lab mentor and has answered many of my questions and aided me in the research I’ve done so far in this program. Risa went to Mills College and got her bachelor’s degrees in biology and environmental studies. Her life career goal is to do good science, science that will benefit the world, science that will help us learn more about cancer and ways to treat it. She enjoys the collaborative aspect of science that some overlook, having people around you that can help you and who you can learn from. That is what makes this type of career path enjoyable for her.

Both Dr. Devi and Risa are great mentors. Both have their own goals to help the science community, and they both have unique characteristics that make them enjoyable to be around. Hopefully with this summer experience I can learn from them, because they both have amazing things to offer.

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