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Student Profile in Ewing Sarcoma

James McGinnis

Biological Chemistry Graduate Program

Mentor: David McFadden, M.D., Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: Cell Biology and Biochemistry
Undergraduate Institution: Bucknell University
Hometown: Morgantown, Pa.
Awards/Fellowships: Graduate School: McKnight Graduate Student Fellowship; Undergraduate: Phi Beta Kappa; Bucknell University Prize for Men; Bucknell University Prize for Cell Biology/Biochemistry

James McGinnis

How did you become interested in science and/or research?

I became interested in research after taking an undergraduate course that was designed to teach discovery-based science. It was my first time planning experiments and working on something that I couldn’t find the answer to in a textbook. I enjoy the idea of being the first person in the world to see a result and knowing something about science that no one else does. This experience led me to start an undergraduate research project in a biochemistry lab. Through my laboratory experience and class work I developed an appreciation for experimental design. I wanted to learn how to ask important biological questions and develop experiments that could elegantly answer them.

Please describe your research.

Mumps virus. 3D illustration showing structure of mumps virus with surface glycoprotein spikes heamagglutinin-neuraminidase and fusion protein)
Mumps virus. 3D illustration showing structure of mumps virus with surface glycoprotein spikes heamagglutinin-neuraminidase and fusion protein.

I study Ewing sarcoma, a pediatric bone cancer characterized by the translocation of EWSR1 and FLI1 to form the fusion protein EWS-FLI. How this fusion protein causes Ewing sarcoma is not well understood. We seek to understand how this fusion protein drives oncogenesis using biochemical and genetic approaches such as CRISPR/Cas9, immunoprecipitation, and chemical screens.

Why did you choose UT Southwestern?

During my visit to UTSW, I was very impressed by the facilities, resources, and faculty. When applying to graduate schools, I wanted to attend an umbrella program like UTSW, where many biological science disciplines were grouped together in one graduate program. The program has given me more freedom in finding the right lab and in what I studied. UTSW also makes it clear that graduate students are a priority. Beyond not having undergraduates, there is extensive support for students throughout their graduate student years to ensure that we succeed.

What do you think makes the Biological Chemistry Program one of the best?

The Biological Chemistry Program at UTSW is one of the best in the country because it is composed of highly respected faculty conducting innovative research. The association of our program with the medical center allows for the combination of basic and translational research, often fostering exciting collaboration. Our faculty are invested in the success of the students and work to ensure that each of us knows how to ask and answer biochemical questions. The class work required in our program is also tailored to be directly applicable to research.

What do you love about the Biological Chemistry Program?

The Biological Chemistry Program at UTSW is a tight-knit group of students and faculty. Events within the department are set up to encourage conversation between faculty and students in a non-intimidating way. Our works-in-progress seminars create a forum for discussion about an individual’s project, bridging techniques and experiences. This creates an environment where everyone is willing to discuss projects, making it easy to approach other faculty members for guidance or advice in their area of expertise.

– James McGinnisBiological Chemistry Graduate Program

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