MD Anderson UTHealth Graduate School student Mabel Perez-Oquendo received an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (Parent F31-Diversity) for her work with ZEB1’s molecular basis and its ability to induce lung cancer metastasis along with possible treatment.
Perez-Oquendo is affiliated with the PhD Genetics and Epigenetics Program, and her advisor is Don Gibbons, MD, PhD.
“As a Latina first-generation graduate student, I actively seek out opportunities that can advance my career development. I am excited for the opportunity to train at a renowned teaching research institution and connect with other researchers by participating in the science and career development seminars organized by the NIH/NCI F31 officers. Growing up in Puerto Rico, I understand the difficulties that come with transitioning from a Non-English-speaking country to an English-speaking country in the pursuit of higher-quality education and career opportunities. However, this transition should not be an obstacle in accomplishing our goals. Experience has taught me that seeking support among other scientists who have overcome similar situations makes us feel even more motivated to succeed in cancer research and helps us to acknowledge our contribution to the science and minority community. We are growing opportunities for minorities in sciences for the next generation. The NIH/NCI F31-Diversity grant is supporting my research by training and providing me with the resources necessary to further hone my networking and communication skills. It also helps me expand my research knowledge to elucidate new strategies in molecular mechanisms of transcriptional regulation and the treatment of cancer.”
Perez-Oquendo plans to use the NIH/NCI F31-Diversity grant to gain experience in modern molecular analyses of PTMs in a metastatic disease model and to collect data required for future mechanistic studies of transcriptional regulators. A major goal for her career is to give back to the science community by serving as a mentor for scientists at different levels in their own careers.
“I would like to thank my parents (Maribel and Belford), my sister (Belmarie), Angel, for their support throughout the application process. I would also like to express my gratitude to my outstanding research and career mentors (especially Drs. Gibbons, Barton, and Salinas) for their training.”