Notre Dame graduate student receives summer fellowship for breast cancer research

Arnie Phifer

Maria Cristina 2

Maria Cristina Miranda-Vergara, a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame, has been awarded the 2017 Leiva Graduate Fellowship in Precision Medicine by the university’s Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics initiative.

“This fellowship recognizes students who demonstrate outstanding performance and bring special qualities to the field of precision medicine research,” says Paul Bohn, Schmitt Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, and director of Advanced Diagnostics & Therapeutics, “and Maria Cristina’s work is a terrific example of this.”

“Her investigations of chemoresistance in various breast cancer types could lead physicians to much more directed and personalized treatment plans for individual patients.”

Miranda-Vergara, who conducts her studies in the laboratory of Laurie Littlepage, Campbell Family Assistant Professor of Cancer Research at the Harper Cancer Research Institute, is looking at how tumor cells interact with the healthy cells that surround them, and how a particular protein called MMP3 is part of those interactions.

“I want to understand the different roles of MMP3 at multiple stages of breast cancer progression,” Miranda-Vergara explains. “The results will be of potentially high diagnostic and treatment value in breast cancer disease management.”

Miranda-Vergara’s activities and service at Notre Dame include much more than laboratory research. She is also a member of the executive board of the student-run Science Policy Initiative and was recently accepted as part of the Social Responsibilities of Researchers 2017 Cohort.

Leadership in science is woven into both her background and future plans as a scientist.

“I led the team that founded the Biotechnology Engineering program at UPAEP University in Puebla City, Mexico, and I became the director of the program in 2010,” says Miranda-Vergara. “After I complete my degree here, I plan to continue my work in precision medicine by joining the Center for Cancer Research at UPAEP and focusing on the differential diagnostics of pediatric cancers.”

Originally published by Arnie Phifer at advanceddiagnostics.nd.edu on May 16, 2017.