1. What is your lab’s long-term/big-picture research goal?
Our long-term goal is to enable better diagnosis and treatment of developmental disorders and cancer. Our part in that process is to explain in molecular detail how our cells divide. We define the molecular signals, switches, and machines that are needed for cell division to occur normally and reveal how defects in those parts cause cancer and birth defects. We are especially interested in knowing how problems in cell division machinery in the context of cancer can be exploited for safer and more effective treatments.
2. What is your training/scientific background?
I received my undergraduate degree from James Madison University in Virginia. My Ph.D. was completed at Vanderbilt University in the Department of Pharmacology. Following my Ph.D., I did post-doctoral training at the Koch Institute for Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
3. What is the goal of your OCASCR project?
My OCASCR project is to understand how stem cells prepare and protect their chromosomes so that they are replicated only once during each round of cell division.
4. How might your research impact diseases related to obesity or smoking?
Through their ability to repair or regenerate dysfunctional or damaged tissue, stem cells have tremendous potential to treat nearly all obesity or smoking related diseases. Most regenerative therapies will likely require the expansion of stem cells through cell division inside or outside of the body. Although we know many of the molecular systems that ensure that the genome is accurately and completely replicated before the division of differentiated cells, there is emerging evidence that these systems do not work the same in adult stem cells. Before we can safely promote the expansion of adult stem cells, we must understand the basic mechanisms that protect their genomes during cell division.
5. What's your most critical piece of research equipment in your lab? Why?
Most of the research equipment in my lab is dispensable because we have such fantastic core facilities at OMRF. Two of these core facilities are especially critical for us. We use the flow cytometry core, which allows us to sort individual cells based on certain properties. We also rely on the Clinical Genomics Core for many experiments that involve sequencing of the human genome.
6. What's your favorite scientific meeting to attend? Why?
I enjoy attending focused meetings, where all the best scientists in our field attend. My lab works on DNA replication, so I like the Cold Spring Harbor Conference on Eukaryotic DNA Replication and Genome Maintenance. At that meeting, we have opportunities to interact with our colleagues and competitors from around the world.
7. What did we forget to ask?
You didn't ask what makes OCASCR stand apart from other funding agencies. My answer would be that OCASCR provides substantial support for research done right here in Oklahoma. OCASCR support allows scientists like me to make new discoveries and push our research in innovative and exciting directions. Previous OCASCR support has also positioned me to apply for subsequent grants from the National Institutes of Health.