How It Came to Be: My Journey to Find a Leading-Edge Lecturer

September 17, 2012 | by Karineh Petrossian

I do not think anyone who goes to an international conference thinks about seeking out potential lecturers for their graduate school; however, this was how I found my guest lecturer.

I met Sara Sukumar, Ph.D., co-director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, at the Gordon Research Conference on Hormone Action in Development and Cancer.

She was approachable and friendly. She interacted with the students, asking us questions about our research interests and our future goals.

Upon my return to City of Hope, my principal investigator (PI) approached me and asked if I would like to invite a speaker as part of the Leading-Edge Lecture series. I looked through my journal articles, wondering if there was someone in my field of research that I would like to meet. Graduate students read numerous articles and it would be exciting to meet the investigators whose papers we read. Hence, it was through this journey that I thought of Dr. Sukumar.

Both Dr. Sukumar and I are in the field of elucidating the pathways involved in endocrine resistance in breast cancers. Endocrine resistance occurs when hormone receptor-positive breast cancer stops responding to the given therapies and forms resistance.

On the day of the lecture, I picked up Dr. Sukumar very early in the morning. She was excited to visit City of Hope, and told me she had a few friends that she wanted to see that day. After a few morning appointments, it was time for her lecture. As the audience took their seats, she calmly made some last-minute changes to her PowerPoint presentation.

After her presentation, many students approached me to say how much they enjoyed hearing her lecture. Later, some graduate students who were interested in Dr. Sukumar’s research gathered to have lunch with her. Some sought scientific advice for their projects while others sought career advice.

As we continued our day with afternoon appointments, Dr. Sukumar met with Linda Malkas, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Dr. Sakumar’s friend of many years. They were thrilled to see each other and I could hear shrieks of excitement coming from Dr. Malkas’s office as they greeted each other. I felt happy that Dr. Sukumar was enjoying her visit with another friend at City of Hope.

Our day ended with great food at a local restaurant called Café Mundial and engaging conversations about the future of research given the current state of our nation.

As I look back on my journey, I am grateful for the opportunity given to City of Hope students who wish to invite guest lecturers. It gives the students the opportunity to interact with potential future PIs and meet scientists who can give them advice on their research or careers.

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