Student Spotlight

Shinji Strain_portraitShinji Strain

As an MD-PhD student at The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), I have had the privilege to fully experience the Graduate School of Biomedical Science’s mission to advance the understanding of human health and disease through collaborative research, education, and intentional mentorship. Under the direction of Dr. Mark R. Emmett, I have the opportunity to work on a research project which integrated my basic science and medical aspirations by working with a team of analytical chemists, neuro-oncologists, and neurosurgeons. Such an experience has allowed me to bridge important gaps between disciplines and grow my understanding of the impact translational research can have on patients with deadly cancers.

My research focuses on the development of a blood test to detect a unique molecule made by brain tumors. This molecule, 2-hydroxyglutarate (2-hg), is created by a mutation found in many brain tumors, but detection is challenging since the molecule exists in two forms. One form is naturally made by the body so my dissertation project is to develop an assay that can separate and detect the two forms of 2-hg for clinical use. The end goal of my dissertation project is to create a non-invasive, reliable blood test which aids in the diagnosis of a brain tumor, accurately assesses treatment response, and detects the regrowth of a tumor to improve survival.

Outside of the lab, I have also had the privilege of engaging in the diverse community inside and outside of UTMB. To grow as an educator, I have taught in the gross anatomy lab, the neuroanatomy lab, and have worked with students interprofessionally from both the School of Medicine and the School of Health Professions. Global health is another strong feature of UTMB and I have had the privilege of working locally at The Luke Society homeless clinic and internationally with researchers and physicians in Kenya.

My long-term goal is to become a surgeon-scientist with expertise in surgical oncology, analytical chemistry, and cancer metabolism. I plan to participate in the design and implementation of novel translational research projects in oncology and spearhead new collaborations between scientists and physicians at an esteemed academic medical center like UTMB. I have a passion for teaching and envisage a future where I train, mentor and disciple the next generation of surgeon-scientists alongside an interprofessional team with the same vision.

Past Student Spotlight