Phone: (904) 620-2239
Office: Building 59, Room 2301
Areas of Expertise
Molecular & Cellular Biology (MoCell); General Biology I ; Cancer Biology
B.Sc. (Biology), Emory University (2000)
Ph.D (Genetics and Molecular Biology), Emory University (2006)
PostDoc (Liver regeneration), Mayo Clinic Jacksonville (2012-2015)
My research focuses on studying secreted factors in microenvironment of both normal and neoplastic cells. I study the role of these secreted factors on a cell's interaction both with the other surrounding cells and the organism as a whole. I have two main projects of interest.
- Tumor Microenvironment: I have been interested in the tumor microenvironment since the beginning of my graduate career. The aim of my dissertation was to examine molecular approaches for diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The dissertation project led to a better understanding of the process of gliomagenesis through identification and characterization of secreted proteins present in the tumor microenvironment. It identified critical differences in protein profiles of CSF samples from patients with low and high-grade astrocytomas as compared to non-tumoral controls. This allowed for identification of a spectrum of signature proteins for different glioma types that may constitute new diagnostic markers in the form of a potential biomarker panel. In addition, I was able to identify and characterize soluble proteins regulated by wt-p53 expression in glioma cells. One of these proteins, Gal-3 was characterized further for its anti-tumor activities and was found to induce apoptosis in several tested tumor cell lines. At Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center (SKMCH&RC), I continued this work on biomarkers for cancer development, progression and treatment in breast and oral cancer in my independent research lab. The first study was designed to investigate the relationship between breast cancer prognosis and plasma levels of Gal-3 while the second study aimed to identify markers of nodal metastasis in early tongue cancer. I would like to continue this work further using in vitro breast cancer cell line model systems to confirm the involvement of Gal-3 in chemotherapy controlled p53-induced apoptosis.
- Liver Regeneration: Liver regeneration after partial hepatectomy is fundamentally associated with the ability of resting hepatocytes to enter and complete the cell cycle with mitosis. However, hepatic regenerative capability diminishes with aging. How to restore the regenerative capability in aged animals remains unknown. My recent work has focused on using pharmacological agents such as GABA to prime hepatocytes from old mice into G2 prior to hepatectomy. This reverses age-related impairments of hepatocyte and liver regeneration in aged mice. Current studies in collaboration with Mayo Clinic focus on understanding the molecular pathways behind this positive effect of GABA on hepatocyte rejuvenation.
The ultimate goal of my teaching is to stimulate my students to understand basic biological principles so they can make informed decisions regarding their own health and the environment. In addition, I also want them to appreciate and value the importance of biological sciences in their lives and to leave my class understanding that biological issues are connected with economics, politics, history and culture. Since people have different learning styles and skills, I consider it my responsibility as a teacher and facilitator to present the information in a variety of approaches (books, visuals, animations, games, etc.), taking into account the varied learning tendencies of the student population. I do not believe in a one way conversation through lecturing in class. Rather, I intersperse my talk about a topic with animations, news clippings or expert scientist interviews to keep student attention and interest. In addition, I ask questions designed to make students think and use the information being presented thus allowing better retention. I facilitate the organization of information by providing short outline of main points of lecture and detailed slides for studying purposes. This allows students to focus on actually understanding the material presented in class rather than concentrate on note-taking.
I am a big proponent of the Socratic method of teaching since it allows for both cooperative and active learning of topics presented in the course. As a third year graduate student, I received a National Science Foundation funded fellowship to teach in K-12 classrooms using case based, investigative and cross disciplinary teaching pedagogy. The positive response of the students to this collaborative, and research based method was fascinating. Since then, I have always strived to incorporate case-based and hands-on learning modules in my courses, especially for students interested in research. Recently I started to build an online database (labmonsters.com) of case studies, investigative and cross-disciplinary laboratory exercises, short questions, and problems that can be used as a resource by instructors interested in using these methods. I have found that using technology based teaching and assessment methods catches student interest and entices them to get more involved in their learning path. Such investigative methods challenge the students to ask questions, synthesize hypotheses, and give them an opportunity to learn important research skills that go beyond the classroom and will be useful in their future professional as well as personal lives.