CNRCS Confers Inaugural Ph.D.

eylemaydogduOn Friday, April 20, Eylem Aydogdu became the first student to defend a dissertation at the UH Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling (CNRCS). Her oral defense, “Impact of microRNA in Mammary Stem Cell Differentiation and Breast Cancer,” was open to the public and attended by Center students, staff and faculty. Shortly after, the panel of faculty advisors conferred the first Ph.D. awarded to a CNRCS graduate student.

“I am truly honored to be the first student to graduate from the Center,” says Aydogdu. “This has been a great opportunity for me to begin my career in cancer research.”

Prior to attending UH beginning in 2006, Aydogdu earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Ankara in her native Turkey. She initially came to the U.S. to learn English before applying to UH and joining the Center. It was her devotion to human health issues that compelled Aydogdu to pursue a career in research that impacts the quality of life. Her next goal is to be awarded a postdoctoral fellowship back in Turkey and continue her research.

“Eylem has been an excellent student and a contributor in the laboratory,” says Cecilia Williams, assistant professor and supervisor to Aydogdu. “She will be missed but we are very proud for Eylem to be the first of many students from the Center to earn a Ph.D.”

Aydogdu is expected to participate in the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics commencement ceremony scheduled for Friday, May 11th. As tradition dictates, Williams will place the hood regalia for Aydogdu. The ceremony will be held across from the SERC building in Hofheinz Pavilion from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aydogdu’s family plans to view the ceremony from Turkey via the live streaming video available here.

For her graduate student research project, Aydogdu focused on understanding miRNA regulation in mammary stem-like cells and breast cancer. The goal of her research project is to identify the divergently expressed miRNAs and regulatory mechanisms between cancer stem cells and stem cells in order to develop a cancer stem cell targeting treatment. Aydogdu hopes to see her project assumed by one of the remaining graduate students for possible in vivo and clinical studies.

“There are many things I will miss about the Center, but most of all I’ll miss the friends I made in the labs,” says Aydogdu. “The variety of expertise within the different lab groups provided a great advantage in collaborating.”

Among other priorities, the Center was established to provide hands-on research training and interdisciplinary collaboration to select graduate students interested in pursuing careers in nuclear receptor research. Aydogdu is the first of 30 graduate students enrolled with the Center to complete her training. Her graduating is the Center’s initial contribution to the Tier One benchmark of doctorate degrees awarded. Other Center contributions to Tier One status include compiling a robust grants portfolio and delivering biomedical research breakthroughs. For more information on admissions, visit the Training Opportunities section of the CNRCS website.