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Glioblastoma Brain Cancer Research

January 2020 – Present (24 months, 4 semesters)  

Mentor: Billy Tomaszewski, PI: John Sampson 

To recall the words of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, the brain is where the soul lies; the chalice of human existence. It is a beautiful organ that drives everything about who we are, what we love, and how we live. For all the decades of neuroscience research behind us, it has barely scratched the tip of the iceberg of the brain’s secrets. Sometimes the mystery can be dark, as is the case with Glioblastoma (GBM), the most common and aggressive primary brain tumor – a tumultuous disturbance of the brain that is impossible to treat and unstoppable. To protect the beauty of the brain – this is what has drawn me to the field of neuro-oncology. 

I’ve conducted GBM immunotherapy research and two research settings for the last 4 years and I continue to carry my past experience to continue building the scientific technical and collaborative skills required to improve medical care by working on oncology research. 

I am currently involved in elucidating the role of CaMKK2 in tumor progression in The Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program at the Duke University Medical Center. The larger goal of the lab is to develop efficacious, novel, and safe immune-based treatments for brain tumors. My first project focused on optimizing an immunofluorescence staining panel for microglial cells on stains from eGFP-reporter mice. My second allowed me to delve into high-dimensional data wrangling and analysis through the processing and analysis of scRNAseq data sets for the purpose of immune cell type clustering and annotation.  I have gained experience data wrangling and pre-processing 10x genomic data for these analytical purposes. The combination of a wet-lab and dry-lab experience situate me in the perfect position to integrate a computational data-driven perspective with the requisite knowledge of neurobiology to improve the state-of-the-art for personalized medical treatment and early diagnosis of brain cancer through single cell analysis and image-based pathology and diagnosis. 

Research is an important avenue of academic growth that allows for experiential learning. It is one thing to hear about molecular biology lab techniques in class and another thing completely to see them in action. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the lab thus far and plan to use GCS funding to support my cancer research this summer and into the school year.

Additionally I have also been involved in other research labs through summer internships investigating glioblastoma and acute myeloid leukemia:

Using Spatial Transcriptomics to explore Regional Domains of Bone Marrow during Bone-Remodeling in early stages of Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Harvard-MIT HST-Wellman Summer Research Scholar
Advisor: Christa Haase, Ph.D., Charles Lin, Ph.D.

July – August 2021 (Virtual)
The Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital

Investigating the effects of the adipose-derived Stromal Vascular Fraction in the context of Intracranial Tumor
Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow
Advisor: Rawan Al-Kharboosh, Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa M.D.

May – August 2021 (In-Person)
The Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville Florida