Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guest Blogger: Ola Makara

As we begin our spring semester at Fordham, the weather has reminded us that spring is still a ways away. Let's flashback to Summer 2014 with an interview with Fordham College at Rose Hill junior Biological Sciences major Ola Makara about her internship at MD Anderson in Texas!


How did you hear about the program?

I heard about the program via email. There are internship and research emails sent out to all the biology majors at Fordham and one was regarding the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) program at MD Anderson. I went on their website, read more about the research experience that they offered, and applied. The president of MD Anderson, Ronald DePinho, also came to Fordham to speak about cancer prevention research and statistics at the University Club in Manhattan. Although I was not able to directly attend this event, I did watch a video of his presentation, and his wise words greatly encouraged me to apply to MD Anderson’s cancer research program.

Did you know that the president of MD Anderson is a Fordham alum before you went?


I did know that Ronald DePinho was a Fordham alum before my summer experience because during my freshman year, he spoke about cancer prevention research and statistics at the University Club in Manhattan. Although I was not able to directly attend this event, I did watch a video of his presentation, and his wise words greatly encouraged me to apply to MD Anderson’s cancer research program.

Did you interact with him at all?


I actually got to meet Dr. DePinho toward the end of my summer! Connecting with such a successful individual who once walked through the same halls of Keating and took the same science courses as I did was a really amazing feeling. He wished me luck in all my future endeavors and reminded me that with self-determination and good communication, my generation had the capability to make extraordinary contributions- not only to science, but also to the world. 
Ola and Dr. DePinho

What kind of work did you do/describe a typical day?


The admissions committee works very thoroughly to match accepted summer students with an appropriate Principal Investigator. However, during the application process, students have the opportunity to select a Principal Investigator that they would like to work with and submit a justification as to why. I was lucky enough to get paired with my top choice- Dr. Russell Broaddus, M.D/Ph.D. The Broaddus lab primarily studies the molecular pathogenesis of endometrial cancer, the number most common cancer diagnosed in women. 

This summer, my particular project focused on adenosine signaling as a potential therapeutic target for metastatic endometrial cancer. This is an extremely important step in endometrial cancer research, because as of right now, late-stage endometrial carcinomas are essentially incurable.

One thing that I realized about being a scientist is that it is not a 9 to 5 job. You cater your hours based on the particular experiments you are running and the time points you are collecting. My days could begin as early as 6 am and end as late as 1 am. One experiment could take up to two hours to complete; another could take up to two days. I would lie if I said that research wasn’t tedious- oftentimes, it can be. However, when you love what you’re doing, you can’t wait to hop out of bed in the mornings and whip on your lab coat. You don’t perceive your work as a “job”, but rather as a hobby.

Would you do it again?


I was fortunate enough to be invited to continue my research for the summer of 2015 and I am super excited to be returning to the Texas Medical Center to spend another fantastic 10 weeks with my PI, my post doc, and the most memorable summer students that you meet along the way! Ideally, I will be rerunning my experiments in mouse models in order to see if adenosine signaling could potentially work in humans. 
Checking out some slides
 
What kinds of things did you learn that you could apply to other aspects of your life?


I gained a lot of knowledge this summer, whether it was from the lab or from prominent scientists during Grand Rounds. However, my most memorable learning experience stemmed from my lunch breaks at MD Anderson’s cafeteria, where cancer patients came to eat and spend time with their visiting families. Seeing and interacting with patients of all ages made me realize what exactly it is that I’m fighting for. They ignited my passion and my sense of purpose. For this, I cannot be grateful enough.   

What other schools were represented?