Shamira Tabrejee, a Fulbright Scholar from Bangladesh, was looking for the right program and the right mentor to pursue her graduate studies.
She found both when she enrolled in the master’s program in genetics, genomics and bioinformatics (GGB) at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, studying under Michael Buck, PhD, professor of biochemistry and director of the GGB graduate program.
“He had a huge impact on me,” Tabrejee says. “In Dr. Buck’s lab I got my first exposure in doing cutting-edge research.”
She worked with transcription factor p63, which is overexpressed in different types of cancers, specifically squamous cell carcinoma.
“My goal was to find the biological rules that dictate this p63 protein’s binding on the DNA. I found that p63 can bind to unmodified chromatin,” Tabrejee says. “My analysis suggested that after it binds it might recruit some other factors, to make that chromatin accessible for the binding of other transcription factors and proteins.”
She gives credit to Buck for opening up new research opportunities. After graduating from the GGB master’s program, she moved on to the University of Toronto, where she is pursuing her doctoral degree in molecular genetics.
“Dr. Buck has been a very helpful mentor. The training in his lab helped me to get into the University of Toronto, which has one of the best molecular genetics programs in the whole world. He had a great influence on that,” Tabrejee says.
Like all good researchers, Tabrejee has a curious mind.
“I have been trying to figure out some basic rules which are helping ourselves to function — like how are the genes being regulated and how does chromatin architecture contribute to that — because that is the fundamental question,” she says.
“I’m focusing on the gene regulation part from different aspects. It’s learning about very basic biology — what’s happening inside you — and if you answer this question, and we know more about you, ultimately at some point you can use that knowledge to perhaps treat various diseases. That’s what excites me,” she adds.
After earning her doctoral degree, she hopes to stay in academia.
“If one day I can have my own lab to perform research, that would be ideal,” Tabrejee says.