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Heather Hambright Researchers Skin Cancer

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Author: Heather Hambright | Category: Final Words... | Cancer Biology | Cancer Biology | July 01, 2016

Your name, program, mentor name. 

Heather Hambright, Integrated Multidisciplinary Graduate Program (now called Integrated Biomedical Science Program), Cancer Biology, Rita Ghosh, Ph.D.

When did you realize you were passionate about science?

In elementary school, I had a natural curiosity for “cancer” and science as a whole. This continued throughout my life, and when I was 21, I got my introduction to cancer biology with Dr. Pratap Kumar as a research assistant.

Please tell me about yourself, why did you pick UT Health Science Center, and your program. 

My introduction to bench research came at 21, and I fell in love with cancer biology research. I was afforded much freedom and opportunities even as a research assistant, which positioned me favorably as a rookie graduate student.

I choose The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio because of the translational opportunities here, cancer biology program, and strong mentorship I knew I would receive from Dr. Ghosh.

Why are you passionate about your research topic? 

I investigate how melanoma cells are different than their normal counterparts, melanocytes, in terms of redox biology and metabolic functions. 

I also investigate how the melanoma can be targeted using novel therapeutic agents that are not harmful to normal cells, and the underlying molecular basis for this selectivity. I’m passionate about my research because it has the translational potential to change patient’s lives, through both prevention or intervention.

What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important? 

You can reduce your incidence of melanoma by limiting sun exposure, using sunscreens, and avoiding tanning beds. 

Regular skin checkups with a dermatologist can identify melanomas early on and remove them before they spread, so go to the doctor (please)! 

Although melanoma can sometimes not be prevented or detected early, I study ways we can potentially intervene to treat patients at a later stage.

What was your best memory during graduate school or what did you learn? 

My best memories are those filled with times I have received overwhelming and unwavering support as I navigated tough times as a student - from my husband, my kids, my parents, my mentor, faculty, and friends. 

As students, our success is largely contingent on the team of people supporting us, so nothing would be possible without that team.

Attitude changes everything. Its easy to get depressed at any point in graduate school, but seeing challenges as “opportunities for growth” changed my outlook immensely. It’s not easy, but you will surprise yourself with how much you learn. (Also great for translating this beyond graduate school- life is tough. How you respond will largely determine your success).

What do you like to do outside of graduate school? 

Taking my kids to the park or swimming, spending time with family, mountain biking, gardening, grilling, shopping.

What’s next? 

Mentored training as an academic postdoctoral fellow, en route to becoming an independent cancer biologist.  

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