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Ms. Lizahira Rodriguez – 2016 Steven A. Cox Scholar

Ms. Lizahira Rodriguez is a very intelligent and highly motivated graduate student who is an outstanding candidate for the Steven A. Cox Scholarship. Lizahira came to Rutgers Cancer Institute with an outstanding undergraduate record and an impressive research history. She received her B.Sc. in Industrial Biotechnology from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez in 2010 where she excelled academically and graduated cum laude. As an undergraduate she pursued independent research with Dr. Carlos Rios-Velazquez in microbiology. Driven by her research experience, she then applied to graduate school programs in biology and was accepted to the NIH NIGMS funded Bridges to the Doctorate Program jointly run by University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez and Rutgers University.

Under the guidance of Dr. Shridar Ganesan’s   laboratory, Lizahira’s research focuses on understanding how DNA repair is regulated in normal cells and how this process becomes disrupted in cancer cells. She has uncovered a novel role for a cellular enzyme in regulating how cells sense and respond to DNA damage. She was able to go from this novel, unanticipated observation, to designing experiments aimed at probing the underlying mechanism. Lizahira is exploring how small molecule inhibitors of this enzyme affect DNA repair in both normal cells and cells with mutations in BRCA1, a hereditary breast cancer gene. This may lead to new insight into the development of breast cancer and lead to new therapies for cancers associated with this mutation. Lizarhira clearly has all the skills and work ethic to excel in a career in cancer research.

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