East Meets West: Goldwater scholar studies cancer

Deborah Park - Goldwater Scholar

Deborah Park, senior in biological sciences, is focused on cancer metastasis research.

A UIC undergraduate student from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who conducts cancer research with a College of Medicine faculty member was recognized for her academic achievement by the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence Foundation.

Deborah Park, a senior majoring in biological sciences, is the latest UIC student to receive the prominent $7,500 scholarship that will cover tuition, books and related fees during the 2016–17 academic year.

Park, a member of the Honors College and the Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions (GPPA) in medicine, has conducted research with Guofei Zhou, assistant professor of pediatrics in the UIC College of Medicine, on biomarkers for early detection of malignant lung cancer and potential treatments for metastatic tumors in lung cancers.

Her professional goal is to be a physician-scientist with an active laboratory in the field of cancer biology with a focus on metastasis, the spread of cancer cells within the body.

“The prospect of uncovering the mechanisms within cancer metastasis in order to develop novel methods for early cancer detection and future therapeutic strategies is captivating,” says Park, a resident of Deerfield.

“Patients with metastatic cancer have particularly poor survival, making tumor metastasis the leading cause of cancer. If we could uncover the pathways behind cancer metastasis, we could potentially turn a systemic disease into a localized and treatable one.”

Through an internship and the Cancer Research Training Award at the National Institutes of Health, Park is spending the summer studying cancer metastasis alongside Christina Stuelten at the Center for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.

Other notable awards for Park, a 2014 graduate of the Illinois Math and Science Academy, include the Great Lakes National STEM scholarship and the American Association for Cancer Research’s 2016–17 Thomas J. Bardos Science Education Scholar Award for Undergraduate Students.

Park, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, is the recipient of multiple university-based honors including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Eugenia R. Jacobson and Max M. Jacobson M.D. Memorial Scholarship and the Honors College’s undergraduate grants for research and conference travel.

Last year, she was among 10 students selected to represent UIC during University of Illinois Undergraduate Research Day in Springfield, where students present their research to Illinois lawmakers to demonstrate the importance of undergraduate research.

She is chief communications officer for the Journal for Young Investigators, a peer-reviewed online publication featuring undergraduate scientific research from around the world.

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