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Student Profile in Brain Metastasis

Samantha Golomb

Cancer Biology Graduate Program

Mentor: Siyuan Zhang, M.D. Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: Microbiology
Undergraduate Institution: The Ohio State University
Hometown: Lafayette, CA
Awards/Fellowships: Ruth L. Kirschstein F31 Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award, Walther Cancer Foundation and Harper Cancer Research Institute Interdisciplinary Interface Training Program Predoctoral Fellowship

Samantha Golomb

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

I became interested in biomedical science at a young age while listening to my dad tell stories about his experiences as an Emergency Room physician. Those stories inspired my curiosity about the causes of disease and how scientists and doctors discover ways to cure and help patients. Majoring in microbiology at The Ohio State University further stoked my interests in studying biology and pathogenesis. During my college summers I interned at Bayer Healthcare, where I was able to get hands-on lab experience. Following graduation, I joined the team at Bayer full-time and worked there for three years. This job provided me with an incredible opportunity to learn numerous lab techniques, the inner-workings of pharmaceutical development and most importantly, why I wanted to earn a PhD. I found that I was most fascinated with the drug discovery process and wanted to attain the skills needed to lead research in this field. I then decided to join a PhD program to learn how to develop scientific questions, design studies and communicate my findings.

Please describe your research.

My projects are focused on studying brain metastasis and the tumor immune microenvironment. One of my studies is evaluating immune cell changes in the brain metastatic niche during brain metastasis outgrowth and how gut microbiome status influences the immune environment. I am also working on a project assessing immune evasion mechanisms acquired by brain metastatic tumor cells. These studies are highly relevant to human health as cancer metastasis is a growing concern in the medical field and our understanding of the impact of the human gut microbiome is in relatively early stages.

Why did you choose UT Southwestern?

I came to UTSW under somewhat unique circumstances as I had started my PhD at the University of Notre Dame (ND). In the middle of my training, my PI, Dr. Siyuan Zhang was recruited to join the faculty at UTSW. ND provided an excellent base to initiate my training but I chose to follow Dr. Zhang to continue the pursuits of my research projects, mentorship with my PI and importantly, seize the opportunity to join an elite PhD program at UTSW. The faculty and resources available at UTSW foster an incredible environment for PhD trainees. Despite the challenges with transferring institutions, I felt that training in this program would further propel my endeavors to become an independent scientist.

What do you think makes the Cancer Biology Program one of the best?

The Cancer Biology Program at UTSW provides a structured framework for grad students to build their training plans. This structure develops a strong foundation for students including basic scientific knowledge, communication of research and critical interactions with faculty through internal symposia, seminars and journal clubs. This program emphasizes the importance of launching graduates into the scientific community who are poised to succeed.

What do you love about the Cancer Biology Program?

In addition to what I mentioned above, what I have loved at UTSW so far is the kindness and generosity of the community here. The researchers and faculty are eager to collaborate, provide guidance and give their time. Everyone that I have interacted with is genuinely intrigued to learn about my work and find ways to be supportive. As a new transfer student, it has meant the world to me to encounter a warm and welcoming environment.

– Samantha Golomb

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