For Arthee Jahangir, who graduates from Einstein this May with a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences, helping others learn to appreciate the mysteries of science is something that comes naturally. Ms. Jahangir, the daughter of a CUNY Kingsborough Community College biology professor, grew up in Brooklyn and the Jersey shore learning to appreciate those mysteries.
Arthee Jahangir"Science, especially biology, was something we talked about at the dinner table," she said. "Other times, we'd go for a walk along the beach and my father would discuss the different organisms along the way. For me, my dad was always a role model. His passion for science inspired my own."
Ms. Jahangir's passion led her to earn an undergraduate degree at Rutgers University, where she concentrated in both genetics and psychology. She worked on a "grab bag of research," studying in three different labs and completed an honors thesis in the melanoma cancer lab of Dr. Suzie Chen—coincidentally, an Einstein Ph.D. alumna.
After beginning her own Einstein education, Ms. Jahangir continued her cancer work in the lab of Dr. Claudia Gravekamp, associate professor of microbiology & immunology. As part of Dr. Gravekamp's team, Ms. Jahangir helped explore the use of a bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes, which, in a weakened, harmless form, could deliver anti-cancer agents that trigger the body's immune system to kill metastatic cancer cells.
"This is fascinating work. You're re-educating the body to recognize cancer—to use its immune system to prevent a disease that's one of the world's most serious health problems," she said.
"It's potentially an elegant, natural solution to cancer. But much work remains ahead."
For now, Ms. Jahangir will continue as a post-doctorate fellow after graduation in Dr. Gravekamp's lab. Ultimately, however, she envisions her work could take her in many directions, from Main Street to Wall Street. She hopes to pursue a career in science communications and program development, which might include educating K-12 and higher education students, government policymakers or even biotech-industry investors." There is a huge demand for a stronger STEM education, because it's the future of innovation and technology," she said. STEM refers to education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Dr. Jahangir (second from right) with fellow members of Einstein’s Entrepreneurship and Biotechnology Club and a recent guest speaker, Dr. Nathan Tinker. Others pictured include (from left, front row): Keisha Thomas, Saima Limi and Danielle Pasquel; (and back row): Nicholas McKeehan and Dr. TinkerShe added, "The need for education in these subjects is particularly acute in the United States; in particular, students aren't keeping up with their international peers in science and math. For example, the World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. only 48th worldwide in the quality of science and math education."
Outside of the Einstein campus, Ms. Jahangir has been working to meet the demand for science education. Last fall, she began mentoring a Nigerian biomedical engineering student while serving as a fellow in the NeXXT Scholars Program, an initiative that connects young American women in science with women from predominantly-Muslim countries who are interested in STEM fields.
The NeXXT program—the "XX" symbolizes the two X chromosomes found in female DNA—is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS). The NYAS and NYC Department of Youth and Community Development also allowed Ms. Jahangir to gain experience in the classroom through the Afterschool STEM Mentoring Fellowship program in which she taught local middle-school students from groups that are traditionally under-represented in STEM fields.
And those aren't the only examples of her passion for helping non-scientists learn more about the field. Over the past two summers, she also has served as a mentor in Dr. Gravekamp's lab, revealing the rewards of research to high school and undergraduate summer research students.
"The need for science education also extends to business people, regulatory agencies, and others who transform new knowledge into new technologies and therapies," noted Ms. Jahangir, who co-founded the student Entrepreneurship and Biotechnology Club (EBC). "They're working in science, but they're not scientists. They need someone to provide clarity, to provide perspective. I get excited about the possibility of using my education to help others bring a therapy to market where it can help people." EBC is one of many extracurricular activities in which Ms. Jahangir participated. Her peers recently recognized her efforts, selecting her as one of this year's recipients of the Sue Golding Graduate Division Student Service Award.
Clearly, this young researcher is not one who is content to remain solely at the bench.
"I know that the path to success is not a linear one. I wish I could be more specific about my future career plans," she said. "I know that there's real need for a better understanding of biology. And I know I can do something about that. If you're passionate about the science and medicine you work on, no one else can share it unless you leave the lab bench. You need to share that passion with everyone."
Posted on: Monday, May 19, 2014