When a cell divides, faithfully replicating its DNA is essential – the life of the cell is on the line. This year’s recipient of the 2023 Harry and Samuel Mann Outstanding Graduate Student Award, Jumana Badar, is carrying out research to determine how cells ensure DNA is replicated correctly, a question that is central to how healthy cells reproduce and how drugs that make this process more difficult for the cell could be optimized to target cancer cells.
“I am honored and humbled to be chosen as this year’s recipient,” she said. “This award will enable me to seek out opportunities to gain new skills and exercise the ones I already have.”
When cells replicate, the DNA strands must separate from one another to form what is called a “replication fork” to allow each strand to be copied. A fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Marcus Smolka, Badar uses mass spectrometry-based proteomics in combination with genetics and functional assays to understand how cells sense and respond to processes that interfere with DNA replication and result in “stressed” forks.