Who doesn’t know a person in his life who has suffered from cancer?! This question urged me to join the pathology department as a PhD student, where cancer pathology has become my obsession. I am fascinated by histology—how cells are perfectly organized to form tissues and organs—and by pathology where one sees that perfect organization disrupted by disease. I became very interested in understanding how and why this happens. I hope that my research will contribute to a better understanding of cancer and its risk factors and maybe one day changes somebody’s life.
Under the mentorship of Elizabeth McNiel, I’m now investigating Aluminum (Al) as a possible risk factor that might facilitate initiation or progression of breast cancer. So far, we have shown that Al has a differential effect on distinct breast cell types and might provide an adventitious microenvironment for growth of breast tumors. The ubiquitous nature of Al and the extensive exposure of humans to Al salts during their daily life defined the need to better understand the detailed molecular effects of Al on the cells. This research will provide an insight on how breast cells react to either acute or chronic exposure to Al salts and help us decide whether we should reduce our daily exposure to Al or not.
Cummings School faculty has been very supportive since I started my PhD. They offered me the opportunity to work in Dr McNiel’s lab, which is part of the molecular oncology research institute located in the health sciences campus in Boston. This is an incredible environment very focused on doing molecular cancer research where researchers are very collaborative and friendly besides being very strong in their careers. As part of the McNiel lab, I’m very much enjoying doing research that links human and animal health; it provides the opportunity to translate bench discoveries into clinical trial in animals with an eye on human health as well. Working on a different campus would have been difficult if it were not for the support from Cummings School faculty and administration; they have been very understanding and have tried to facilitate my mission as much as possible.
I’m inspired by the ability of Dr. Elizabeth McNiel to function as a clinician, teacher, and investigator at the same time and to excel at all three. I’m impressed by her patience and resilience and her willingness to listen and make every lab member at ease when they are having research or even life difficulties. I’m constantly learning the values and skills of a good scientist, and I’m hoping to follow in her footsteps to become a good diagnostician, teacher and investigator.