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A doctoral student studies cancerous tumor cells; follows the path of a high school science teacher

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Emmet Karner, PhD student at Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, is a lab member of Arthur Mercurio, PhD, professor of molecular, cellular and cancer biology. Karner was inspired to go to the field by a passionate and influential science teacher.

Karner credits the late Larry Vanaria of Maynard High School with credit for sparking his interest in science.

“My teacher was diagnosed with severe esophageal cancer and died halfway through our teaching,” Karner said, adding that Vanaria had continued to teach for as long as he could despite his failing health. “He was just always there because he liked to teach, he liked the subject. It was a great inspiration. “

Karner graduated from UMass Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology in 2017.

The Mercurio laboratory focuses on the tumor microenvironment and tumor heterogeneity. Karner is focusing on a newly discovered form of cell death called ferroptosis to understand how tumor cells can be more or less sensitive to this form of cell death.

“I’ve always liked the idea of ​​science, especially since it’s kind of a work of discovery,” Karner said. “It’s investigative work. This is the one where you can flex your creative side and your intellectual side.

Among the reasons he chose to attend UMass Chan Medical School was the opportunity to try out multiple areas during his first year of study and the high quality of research. He also fell in love with the Worcester area, especially for its affordability, which allows him to live close to his classmates.

“What we have here allows us to be in a very tight-knit group with a lot of common bonds and connections, and which I don’t think you see everywhere,” he said.

These connections are formed with more than just classmates; they are also with the staff and the teachers.

“There’s a deeper connection you can form with people in research where you can ask tough questions like, ‘How do you keep motivation and inspiration when things aren’t going well? This is something you don’t always understand; he’s a friend in research, ”Karner said. “I think UMass Chan has a lot of them.”

The Student Spotlight series features students from the UMass Chan School of Medicine, Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing, and TH Chan School of Medicine. For more information about UMass Chan Medical School and how to apply, visit Future students page.

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