For Kyle Tucker ’14 (Los Angeles, Calif.), cancer research allows him to explore multiple fields of science, but it also touches him on a personal level.
“I was sixteen years old going into college when I heard that my mother’s breast cancer had returned from remission. It was a numbing experience for me, but I like to believe it gave me the push I needed to begin my journey in understanding cancer. Looking back on that day around three years ago, I’m glad to say I still have my mom and the same passion for cancer research,” explains Tucker, who is majoring in biology.
“The ability to do breast cancer research through both molecular biology and biophysics has made quite a significant impact on my life. Biophysics gives you the tools to understand the wonders of biology through the eyes of statistical mechanics, while molecular biology gets you into the lab extracting the DNA, studying the genetic expression of the tumor cells, and making a difference in the front lines of cancer research,” he says.
Through Lafayette’s EXCEL Scholars undergraduate research program, Tucker has conducted research every year he has been at Lafayette. His focus has been on the functionality of the gene MYD88, which is relevant in many cancers.
“The question we tackled was, if we turn off MYD88 in breast cancer cells, how will they respond?” he says. “Being on the front lines of research for the first time in my life was definitely a major turning point and opened my eyes to the beauty of molecular biology and cancer research.”
During the summer of 2012, Tucker worked with Robert Kurt, associate professor of biology. In fall 2012 he carried out research with Brad Antanaitis, associate professor of physics.
“My faculty mentors have believed in me and truly taught me how to learn outside of my comfort zone and love it,” he says.
“My research opened doors for me to speak with some of the top physicists in the world,” he adds.
After he graduates, Tucker, a McKelvy Scholar, plans to pursue either a Ph.D or an M.D. He is hoping to travel and explore the clinical side of cancer research through Doctors Without Borders or a similar program before making his decision about graduate school.
This summer, he continued his research in the lab of Joaquin Espinosa, associate professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at University of Colorado, Boulder. The experience was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Tucker attended an HHMI conference in the spring.