Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? And where did you do your undergrad?
I am an international student from Egypt. I studied Molecular and Cell Biology as an undergrad at the University of Science and Technology at Zewail City. I graduated in 2017 and spent two years as a Research Technician at Zewail City studying DNA repair mechanisms in budding yeast. I then decided to take a huge leap and pursue my graduate studies in the US.
Why did you choose UNC specifically?
I applied to 10 different schools in the US and I got accepted to 3 schools. UNC was my top choice for several reasons. First, the Biochemistry and Biophysics department at UNC has prominent scientists in the fields of DNA replication, DNA repair, and chromatin regulation, which are my top research interests. Also, it was evident during interviews that scientists at UNC are so passionate about science that they enjoy doing it as part of their hobbies. Chapel Hill stood out as a great place to do my PhD: not so expensive, great weather, lots of beautiful scenery, and a place with great potential for careers after the PhD.
What are you studying for your PhD?
In the Cook lab, we are interested in understanding how cells prepare their DNA for replication which is a crucial step in the cell division cycle. I am particularly excited about figuring out the molecular mechanisms by which c-Myc, a frequently overexpressed oncogene in cancers, regulates the cell cycle. We use single cell technologies such as quantitative flow cytometry and live-cell imaging, where you can analyze thousands of cells simultaneously or track single cells as they go through each phase of the cell division cycle. So cool!
What would you advise the new students starting their PhD journey?
Enjoy the PhD journey. It can get very stressful sometimes, but don’t forget to reflect on how far you’ve gone. Also, don’t wait for something big to happen that will make you happy. Enjoy the small, good things that happen every day like getting a perfect blot from the first trial, or analyzing an experiment you have long been excited about, or just enjoying your midday lunch during good weather.
What are your hobbies outside of the lab?
I love playing the piano! I finished a degree from Trinity College London in Egypt and participated in music concerts at the Cairo Opera House. If I wasn’t pursuing science, I’d probably be a pianist. I also love cooking authentic Egyptian food.