Name: Sophia J. Quinton
Year in School: Senior
Major: Cell and molecular biology
Advisor and committee members: Life sciences professor Mira Han (faculty advisor), communications and Honors professor Rebecca DiVerniero (Honors advisor), and life sciences professor Nora Caberoy (committee member)
From a young age, I knew that I wanted to be a part of research — specifically cancer research. In sixth grade, I was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, a rare leukemia. I went through intense chemotherapy and lost all my hair, but I survived.
I am 10 years in remission now, and I know I want to devote my life to research. I went to high school in Las Vegas and wanted to go to college in a city I knew, so I came to UNLV to work on my undergraduate degree for biology.
UNLV has allowed me to follow my passion. In my very first semester here, I learned about professor Han’s cancer research lab from fellow students at the CSUN undergraduate research fair. I immediately contacted her, and before I knew it, I was working in the lab learning about bioinformatics and genome analysis. I’ve been working there ever since.
I learned about the Research and Creative Honors Program from Honors College Acting Dean Andrew Hanson when he visited my Honors first-year seminar course. I was excited to get involved.
My thesis project focuses on analyzing data on the L1HS retrotransposon and the mitochondrial genome. It further investigates how stressed cells affect transposons and genes. Retrotransposons are part of an individual’s genome that can move to other locations, and L1HS is known to be over-expressed in cancer. We believe that the L1HS retrotransposon can provide interesting insights into “junk DNA.”
My thesis committee members have allowed me to see what it’s like to be a researcher. They’re all incredibly intelligent women that I hope to one day emulate. Plus, computational biology is the future of biological research and has numerous applications within biomedical research. The programming skills I’ve gained working on this project are extremely beneficial to my future career in cancer research.
My project has by no means been a walk in the park, though. It has required a lot of time, input, and re-running experiments/programs. There’s always a deadline, but this project has helped me research on deadline, which I think will come in handy when I’m in grad school to become an MD/Ph.D. I want to be a medical cancer researcher helping others. It’s a long road to get there, but I can’t see myself doing anything else.