Having been exposed to work on transfer RNA (tRNA) as an undergraduate at Brooklyn College. I continued in this area while obtaining my Ph.D. in Biochemistry at Stony Brook University. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my thesis was spent characterizing the mammalian tRNA that served as the platform for the synthesis of the selenium-containing protein selenocysteine, which was subsequently incorporated in growing peptides in response to a specially designated UGA “stop codons”. I learned about molecular cloning and cancer biology during my post-doctoral training at Harvard Medical School before taking my first faculty position in the Dept. of Radiation Oncology at the University Chicago. There I returned to work on selenoprotein synthesis and function, which evolved into the role those selenoproteins play in cancer etiology. This focus continued after I moved to the University of Illinois, first in the Dept. of Human Nutrition, and subsequently to my current home in the Dept. of Pathology.
I’ve selected anti-oxidant proteins implicated in cancer risk and outcome by human epidemiological data for further study, with an emphasis on those proteins that contain selenium in the form of selenocysteine. By manipulating these proteins in cultured cells and examining their levels and subcellular location in human tissues, it is hoped we can learn about the mechanisms behind their effects on healthy and cancerous cells.