Country of Origin
Amber: As many researchers will tell you, we always have more than one project running at a given time. My work during my PhD has been centered on colorectal cancer with the goal of identifying immune cells that contribute to disease outcomes and then testing ways that we can address these observations therapeutically. For example, we have observed that tumors with KRAS mutations have more T cells in them, which could be favorable for treatment outcomes. We are currently validating therapies that were inspired by the mechanism of action of KRAS within the tumors for their ability to attract T cells to the tumor. We are also working to define how the immune cells in the tumor change over time, which could give physicians insight into what therapies could be appropriate depending on the stage of their disease.
Amber: My projects involve some high-dimensional data sets that give us information on the state of multiple cell types within a tumor and tissues. Besides generating these datasets, it is also my job to process and, most importantly, interpret the data. The biggest challenge this presents is that I have to spend a lot of time to generate hypotheses from the data by sitting in front of the computer reading the literature, checking and double-checking each study. This means there’s a lot of time invested in many hypotheses, but only a few prove to be true according to the experiments.
Amber: I was trained as a Chemist during my undergraduate and then transitioned into chemical biology and eventually found myself intrigued by a project with a basis in immunology. I believe that my naivety about the complexity of this area of research has been a huge advantage to the project. I have been able to use my more biochemical training to dig down to the molecular basis of my project and identify important mechanisms driving immune cell trafficking in and out of tumors.
Amber: An aspect I value of the ETH domain is the supportive community our research groups. The culture of mentorship and collaboration creates a supportive network where colleagues are willing to share their expertise and offer guidance. This supportive community fosters personal and professional growth, allowing for the development of strong research skills and the opportunity to learn from experienced researchers. Additionally, the reputation of the ETH Domain is one of incredibly strong scientific integrity and rigor, which translates to highly effective and efficient inter-institutional collaborations.
Amber: It cannot be achieved alone, but I hope the research community as a whole is able to see at least one solid cancer become a chronic, manageable disease or to be completely prevented/cured in the coming 50 years. It may seem like a very lofty dream, but I actually think we will see this happen in our lifetimes.