College:College of Medicine
Degree Program:Biotechnology MS
Research Focus:Drug resistance in lung cancer cells
Fareesa Aftab knows that a lung cancer diagnosis can be nothing short of horrifying. Even after enduring grueling treatment regimens with long-lasting side effects, there is no guarantee that cancer won’t find an alternate path to return. That’s why she is studying how lung cancer cells switch pathways to grow in order to find treatment combinations that can prevent cancer cells from developing resistance.
Aftab earned her bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from UCF and is currently working toward a master’s in Biotechnology. She chose UCF for her graduate degree due to the great benefits and flexibility in her studies. Ensuring she got the perfect fit, her program allowed her to do lab rotations before choosing a lab to fit in with her thesis. She also mentions how the core classes she took gave her the strong foundation needed to be successful in her research, saying she benefitted so much from them.
As an undergraduate, Aftab was president of the Eureka Research Society from 2018-2019. During her time there, Eureka received the Academic Organization of the Year Award for collaborating with Undergraduate Research (OUR) to fund students of low-income backgrounds to attend the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference. She describes how meaningful it was for her to help others become involved in research like she has herself.
Currently, Aftab is involved in lung cancer research at Dr. Wencai Zhang’s Lab working to understand drug resistance in lung cancer cells. She describes how grateful she is for Dr. Zhang’s guidance and encouragement, as she was initially apprehensive about conducting research. “Dr. Zhang is not only patient, but he teaches me that even negative results are important results,” she says.
During the 2021 Student Research Week, Aftab received recognition for her hard work. She describes how excited she was to share her research with the UCF community and how much the highlight meant to her. “This was my first ever poster presentation [and] being recognized gave me confidence in myself and encouragement to apply for future opportunities,” she says.
As for her inspiration, Aftab credits her parents for making her success possible. She describes how her parents sacrificed so much when they immigrated to this country. Despite their financial hardships, her parents insisted that she and her sister focus on their studies and not worry about working. “They sacrificed their own needs so that we had everything we needed.” She says. “I want to make sure that their sacrifices were not in vain and make the most of these opportunities.
After graduating, Aftab plans to get industry experience in pharmaceutical research and development or a biotech startup to make an informed decision about her field of specialization before getting herself a PhD.
- 2021 Student Research Week award recipient
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