Whitney Henry, left her home country St.Lucia, at the age of 19, to pursue a career in science. After winning an academic scholarship to a small liberal arts college in northern Louisiana, she volunteered for experimental training in one of two research labs, interning at other universities during undergraduate summers.
“It’s been a long journey,” Whitney Henry, Class of 2016, says. “I needed to find that sweet balance between basic academic science and science that could be translated into something that could eventually impact people’s lives in an important and positive way,” she said about her years at Grambling State University. “That brought me to cancer cell biology.”
Whitney is currently in her sixth year of graduate studies in the Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences and she works alongside Alex Toker, HMS professor of pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the cancer biology lab. She is passionate about a future in biomedical research through which she can contribute to a better understanding of cancer and more effective therapies for patients. Her work so far has focused on understanding how the PI 3-kinase signaling pathway contributes to breast cancer pathogenesis by exploring whether combining aspirin and PI 3-kinase inhibitors can improve the efficacy of these inhibitors to suppress breast cancer growth. She has so far discovered a protein that is regulated downstream of PI 3-kinase. This protein influences such critical functions as cell proliferation.
While her work in the lab consumes her, Henry still remembers her roots, volunteering to feed the scientific curiosity of high school students through outreach work. In addition, she works on a steering committee for Minority Biomedical Students of Harvard, seeking to enrich her peers’ lives both scientifically and professionally.
Whitney also lends her talents to Seeding Labs, a nonprofit organization that helps support labs in developing countries through equipment transfer programs and science enrichment programs.
“I think I am where I am today because I had a lot of great mentors who saw potential in me and who guided me towards my current track,” Henry said. “At Harvard, it’s been a great learning experience in many ways. I have seen myself grow intellectually as a scientist but also as a person.”
Let’s listen to Whitney’s presentation at the Harvard Horizons Symposium, on “Understanding the Chemotherapeutic Benefit of Aspirin in Mutant PIK3CA breast cancer”[embedplusvideo height=”429″ width=”710″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1nkBkBG” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/Ccd3DaIKIJ0?fs=1&vq=hd720″ vars=”ytid=Ccd3DaIKIJ0&width=710&height=429&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=1&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=” id=”ep8042″ /]