What are your current research interests and/or what is a project you are currently working on?
Our genome is continually exposed to environmental toxicants and the basis of multiple human diseases, such as cancer, is rooted in oxidative stress. Reactive oxygen species can alter the chemical composition of the compounds used to build DNA, as well as DNA itself. Our research interest is the oxidative DNA damage repair and role of this repair mechanism in the prevention of cancer and genomic instability. We are currently working on how this particular type of damage leads to DNA strand breaks, and ultimately, cell death using biochemical and cell biology methods, along with X-ray crystallography, to uncover the inner workings of cells. Our overall goals are to develop approaches to elucidate how oxidative DNA damage is generated, processed and repaired in hopes of beneficially impacting the treatment and/or prevention of cancer.
Who or what has inspired you to pursue this career?
My entire childhood was steeped in experiences in the natural world and in scientific observation/experimentation. Also, I am deeply influenced by many incredible and inspiring women scientists who have changed our understanding of the world around us. Especially, one of the most consequential scientists of the 20th century, Rosalind Franklin, whose work helped uncovers the double-helix structure of DNA. I became fascinated with her personality and passion to her scientific curiosity leading to this groundbreaking discovery.
What do you want to achieve with your work and/or in your career?
DNA repair pathways can be inhibited pharmacologically to potentially increase the efficacy or specificity of DNA damaging anti-cancer drugs. We hope to make a significant impact on improving cancer therapy that target the differences in the network of DNA repair pathways that maintain genome stability between cancer and normal cells to develop therapies that specifically target cancer cells. Our goal is to contribute to the understanding of the biochemical mechanisms responsible for aberrant DNA repair and genomic instability in cancer cells.
What excites you about your work? What is exciting to you about your field right now?
The opportunity to do research with people in a broader set of talents, and the possibility that our discovery may change a cancer patient’s life. A better understanding of the roles and interactions of the highly complex DNA repair machineries is very exciting field with promise and challenge.