Student Profile in Metastasis
Mauricio Antonio Marquez Palencia
Mentor: Srinivas Malladi, Ph.D.
Undergraduate Degree: General Biology
Undergraduate Institution: University of California San Diego
Hometown: Tijuana, Mexico
Awards/Fellowships: As an undergraduate student at the University of California San Diego, I received the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) award funded by the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) in 2015. As a graduate student at UT Southwestern Medical Center, I received the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2019.
How did you become interested in science and/or research?
As a high school student in Mexico, I had the opportunity to volunteer in a hospital as a clinical laboratory technician. With this experience, I developed a basic understanding of microbiology, hematology, and serology. Spending time identifying human cells and microorganisms through a microscope sparked my interest and passion in science. Thus, I decided to pursue a degree in biology.
Based on my observations in the clinical lab, I realized that I needed to obtain advanced hands-on research experience to grow my knowledge in the sciences. Since research opportunities in Mexico are scarce, I decided to study in the United States. I was astonished that I could have the opportunity to apply and participate in biomedical research projects at a community college level, as these types of opportunities were not available to me in my home country. This realization opened the doors for me to start my research career path. My summer and undergraduate biomedical research experiences strengthened my passion to solely pursue the scientific life.
Please describe your research.
Metastasis is the leading cause of death in cancer patients. It is caused by cancer cells that have disseminated from the primary tumor (DTCs) and are capable of initiating secondary tumors in distal organs. DTCs can survive as latent entities for months to decade before initiating metastasis. Our lab studies the molecular mechanisms, metabolic reprogramming and components of the tumor micro-environment that aid disseminated cancer cell survival and proliferation post extravasation. My research focuses on understanding the role of metabolic and epigenetic factors that trigger metastatic breakout in mice harboring latent disseminated cancer cells.
Why did you choose UT Southwestern?
In order to become a good scientist, you need to put all your effort and passion to achieve it. However, working alone is not enough to succeed. In this type of career, you always need guidance and support from others to fully accomplish your goals and be successful. UT Southwestern provides the rich, collaborative research environment with talented faculty who are willing to support, guide, and train graduate students in their scientific journey. In addition, as a minority student in the science field, UT Southwestern emphasizes in the recruitment and incorporation of pre-doctoral students from the U.S territory, international, and underrepresented diversity trainees. For these reasons, I decided to join UT Southwestern.
What do you think makes the Cancer Biology Program one of the best?
The Cancer Biology (CB) Program provides well-designed courses covering the fundamentals of the hallmarks in cancer research with specialized professors in their respective area. Cancer Biology is a cross-disciplinary program that trains pre-doctoral students in areas from basic to translational research. The CB program helps you become an independent scientist with excellent intellectual and technical tools to succeed in academia and industry. The CB program promotes the scientific growth of students and provides the opportunities to do so, including work-in-progress seminars, faculty presentations, poster sessions, and journal clubs. Moreover, the faculty in the CB program grants an exclusive collaboration experience to students with the opportunity to explore and expand their research projects.
What do you love about the Cancer Biology Program?
I love that UT Southwestern and the Cancer Biology Program help and guide students to accomplish their research goals for a successful scientific career. The biomedical and cutting-edge research opportunities and the well-specialized faculty from diverse areas makes UT Southwestern a rich learning environment that provides high-quality education during our scientific career. Additionally, the collaborative environment in this institution expands our mentorship opportunities and the tools we need to conduct better quality science.
– Mauricio Antonio Marquez Palencia, Cancer Biology Graduate Program