Graduate student explores cancer’s effect on metabolism
When Jose Enriquez first walked into a research chemistry lab as an undergraduate, he knew he’d found his path forward.
“I was studying biochemistry and a friend recommended I try a research position. I immediately fell in love with the work,” says the graduate research assistant in Cancer Systems Imaging. “I’d always been fascinated by science, but that was the first time I knew how I wanted to really apply my interests to a career.”
“We can use non-invasive imaging and a chemical compound to follow how your metabolism is working in real time, and see where the molecules go in your body,” he explains. “I hope to use this to help diagnose pancreatic cancer early before any symptoms appear.”
To support this innovative work, he was recently awarded an F99/K00 Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition grant from the National Cancer Institute. The grant will support Enriquez as he completes his Ph.D. and, after graduation, a postdoctoral fellowship. These awards are given to the nation’s most promising graduate students to aid their transition to a role as an independent researcher.
Gratitude for MD Anderson and grad school community
Enriquez will spend the next two years focusing on his dissertation and taking advantage of our graduate school’s resources. His favorite part of being a student is the community, full of faculty who are always willing to help and want to see students succeed. He’s thankful his interest in cancer research led him here for graduate studies.
“Something about cancer caught my attention: Why does this happen? Why do our cells do this, and why can’t our bodies stop it?” he says. “I really wanted to study it and knew MD Anderson was the place to do so, especially after realizing the kinds of research I could do with imaging.”
After graduation, Enriquez plans to keep learning and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for early detection. He’s hoping to expand on his current work and learn a new imaging technique, all in the hopes of finding something novel to help cancer patients.
“I love doing research,” he says. “It’s so exciting to encounter something where you’re the only person who’s seen it before.”