Student Spotlight

Anna NiaAnna Nia, MS

The dual degree MD-PhD program at UTMB has given me the opportunity to obtain a truly integrated training in both medicine and scientific research. We live in an era where not only translating fundamental discoveries into new therapeutic and diagnostic approaches is important, it is also significantly more attainable than ever. My PhD mentor, Dr. Mark Emmett has been an integral part of my dual degree training. As a mentor, he encourages me to not only work on my dissertation project, but also reach out to other faculty members for interdisciplinary collaborations. I’ve been able to keep up with my clinical skills by being involved with the Department of Neurosurgery at UTMB. In particular, Dr. Rishi Lall has provided me the opportunity to observe various neurosurgical procedures performed at UTMB and work on multiple clinical studies. I’ve also been serving as the UTMB chapter president of American Association of Neurological Surgeons to hone my leadership skills.

My PhD dissertation project has been focused on using various computational tools to understand the molecular mechanism of irradiation induced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Exposure to high-energy heavy ions (HZE) during space travel is a health risk for astronauts that can lead to cancer even at low doses. To better understand the molecular mechanisms of HZE induced carcinogenesis, we use a mouse model of HZE- induced HCC to study microenvironmental changes after exposure to low level HZE. We use comprehensive systems biology approach consisting of transcriptomics, MALDI-IMS and proteomics with novel data analysis to build detailed biological pathways and identify molecular mechanisms that drive carcinogenesis which will further our understanding of risk at a mechanistic level and allow the development of new models for estimating human risk. This would help inform our search for novel therapeutic targets of HCC and assist in the design of future counter measures for HCC in deep space flights.

Past Student Spotlight