“My name’s Naomi Dempsey. I work here in Dr.
Lipman’s lab, and I actually finished medical school this year as a doctor, so I decided
to spend my first year as a doctor doing medical research in breast cancer.
My research looks at how cancer cells decide that they want to grow and divide and eventually
spread to other parts of the body, which is called metastasis. By being able to prevent
these cells from metastasizing to other areas of the body like the lungs or the brain or
the bones, we can not only lengthen our patients’ lives, but also make them a lot more comfortable
during their disease. One of the really fun things about working
in the lab is that you work with your hands and with your mind. You think about a question
that you would like to answer, or something you’re interested about in cells, or in mice,
or in people, and you come up with your question, you come up with a way to answer it, and then
at the end you get results that then you interpret and decide, “”What did my results mean, and
how did they impact the future of cancer and of medicine?””
I was born in northern Minnesota, I grew up in a town of about 8,000 people, and I lived
30 minutes outside of that town a mile back in the woods, so really very different from
Miami. When I was in high school I already knew that I really liked science, and I was
good at science. I focused on things that involved biology, medicine, and research as
well, but in high school I was actually kind of the band nerd. I played the flute and that
was what I did with a lot of my extracurricular time.
My mother had breast cancer, and, fingers crossed, she’s doing great now, fully in remission
for about five years. Everybody gave so much care to her treatment that that really inspired
me to want to go into cancer as opposed to any other type of medicine.
It takes some time to learn how to do all the techniques, to learn how to work with
cells so you don’t just come in the next day and find that they’re all dead in the flask
and learning to think critically about your project. It’s amazing when you start to study
cells and study cancer and study the way that the body works, everything is so much more
elegantly complex. How much is going on all the time that we just don’t even think about
in daily life, but that complexity is what allows there to be so much research going
on, that allows for a lifetime of constant learning, which is part of what’s enjoyable
about doing research, is that there’s always something new to learn.
These cells that I’m working on are the MCF7 cells, these are breast cancer cells that
respond to estrogen, progesterone … I hope to eventually come up with some kind
of new treatment or new technique based on the research that I’m doing, that can ultimately
help patients. Science can be a really exciting and rewarding
career. Like I said before, you get to work with your mind and with your hands. This is
probably the funnest job that I’ve ever had, so I would encourage you to go volunteer,
go see if you can find someone who’s doing medical research where you can get excited
about their project, and help them with it, and ultimately come up with some ideas of