Student Spotlight: Isaiah Hooks: Cancer Researcher

Student Spotlight: Isaiah Hooks: Cancer Researcher

By Kenza Bey, Lucy Caroff (Sophomores)

Hooks in front of his research results

Having the opportunity to do important scientific research is something that most people don’t consider, especially in spaces where those opportunities can be few and far between. Breast cancer is the second most lethal form of cancer among women in the United States, and although many students may be interested in researching this devastating disease, many do not know where to start or if that is even an option. Isaiah Hooks is one of the few students who did have this opportunity. Hooks has worked under his mentor, Dr. Lauren Brown at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Academy for two years. In those two years, he’s worked on two different projects, both relating to breast cancer.

After applying and being accepted into the Hillman Academy, they assign you a type of cancer to research along with a mentor to guide you. “I kind of went in blind” says Hooks. “They got to teach me a lot of scientific methods… that’s how I got to do all of this [his research], Dr. Lauren taught me,” this program provides Isaiah and many other students with very unique opportunities, and pays them for it too. At the end of his research work each summer, Hooks is given a $2,400 stipend along with the beneficial experience. During the school year, Isaiah  Hooks and other Hillman Academy students present their findings at science fairs. 

This is not a simple month-long low commitment opportunity. Hooks got real-life lab experience. The projects are a research based, hands-on, immersive experience. With the guidance of their mentors, students are continuously involved and making impactful contributions throughout the process. For students like Hooks who have always held a passion for sciences this is an incredible and unique opportunity. He got to research the links between IDC, ILC (the two most common types of breast cancer), and MMT or Mesothelial-to-mesenchymal transition. He was in the lab treating cells, inspecting them, and reviewing changes in those cells. 

Hooks plans to continue this path in science. He hopes to study biology at Pitt after he graduates next year. He’s not quite sure what he wants to go into career wise but he definitely plans on remaining focused on science in his career. 

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