Biochemistry Major Explores the Future of Medicine

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This story is part of our #BeTheChange series, which highlights small and large contributions that Manhattan College students are making across campus, in New York City and the U.S., and internationally.

An aspiring DNA cancer researcher aims to one day prevent the risk of certain human genetic diseases.

Long before she began taking classes in the School of Science, Shereen Chaudhry ’19 knew her ultimate goal was to work in medicine, but not as a pediatrician or surgeon. She became a biochemistry major because she could make the greatest impact on healthcare.

“I realized I don’t want to follow protocols or an already predetermined guide,” said Chaudhry, who now plans to pursue a career in biomedical research. “I want to come up with new things that others can use, and will ultimately benefit public health.”

Since May 2018, that motivation has led to research breakthroughs with Bryan Wilkins, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry. Their project is funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Their primary DNA research focus is on chromatin remodelers, which the science major describes as large proteins that rearrange human DNA as needed, to transcribe and replicate themselves in order to express genes that are passed down to us by our parents. According to Chaudhry, if researchers can understand the behaviors of the remodeler protein, they might be able to slow and even reverse the effects of aging, and stop certain genetic diseases, such as cancer, in their tracks.

Video by: Laura Meoli-Ferrigon

This particular ability may be a long way off, but its possibility gets to the heart of her passion for medical and ultimately, cancer research.

Six years ago, when Chaudhry’s grandmother died of liver cancer, she witnessed the devastating effect the illness had on her family.

“Cancer runs in my family, and the impact it has on society is so real. What could be more important than preventing it?” she asks.

Chaudhry, who is originally from the Tremont section of the Bronx, has volunteered at nearby hospitals in New York City since high school. She currently works as an emergency medical technician at Montefiore Medical Center, and in the past has volunteered at Einstein Health and Mount Sinai Brooklyn. Her goal is to eventually earn a Doctorate of Medicine and of Philosophy (M.D.-Ph.D.).

Chaudhry is also president of the American Chemical Society (ACS) student chapter at Manhattan College. This summer, she will present findings of her biomedical research at the organization’s national meeting in San Diego, California.