Student Spotlight with Ernie Doherty

Having recently turned in his thesis, Ernie Doherty, a Harvard senior concentrating in Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology, took a moment to tell HSCI about his work, literary interests, and most importantly - the contents of his fridge.

Ernie Doherty

HSCI: So Ernie, you were part of the HSCI internship last summer and are currently in Kornelia Polyak's lab at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where you've turned your research into a thesis project. Can you tell us about that? 

Ernie: My project focuses on an epigenetic drug. First, we found that the drug effectively inhibits the growth of triple negative breast cancer cells, a type that doesn't respond to anti-HER2 or hormone therapies and the current standard of treatment is chemo therapy.  The drug works for some time, but then resistance develops -- a hallmark of cancer. So, I started working on a resistance project - basically, why does the drug stop working?  We discovered it was a change in the target protein's conformation. Now, we're going through drug screens to see if we can pair the drug with another one that restores the old conformation of the protein and overcomes resistance. The synergy of two of the drugs is looking good, and they're moving forward in the clinic which is very exciting. 

HSCI: Sounds like you're working pretty hard in the lab, Ernie. In your off time do you ever get to do any non-scientific reading? What was the last book you read?   

Ernie: Ubik by Philip K. Dick.  I was taking Harvard Professor Stephen Burt's course on science fiction, and it was one of our assigned novels.  I read it in two days on the shuttle, on the way to class, when I was supposed to be doing other homework - I just couldn't stop reading it. I loved it because the author only ever gave you just the slightest bit of information to keep reading.  It was a lot like the movie Inception - you never know if the characters are in reality or not.

HSCI: Sound like something I should read! But hungry minds have to eat, too. Tell us, what is the one thing that's always in your fridge?

Ernie: In my fridge at school?  Old milk.  At home?  Healthy foods. I'm always looking for all the answers to my life when I open the fridge, but there's never anything except humus and vegetables. So then I just end up eating my mom's ice cream. 

HSCI: That sounds very profound, Ernie.  I think there's a metaphor to life in there.

See also: Spotlight