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Karen StrunkSPIRE Fellow, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Hi All! I started my educational journey with a BA in Biology from Lehigh University. At Lehigh I was initially exposed to the world of research via an undergraduate honors research project that involved fruit flies and genetics. From there I worked for two years as a technician at University of Pennsylvania in a lab that studies the role of the transcription factor MyoD in embryonic avian muscle development. I completed my Ph.D. in December 2002 from Vanderbilt University, where I delved further into genetics by looking for genes that modify the phenotype of Egfr-deficient mice. Currently I am focusing on merging my previous research experiences in developmental biology and genetics to the study of genes involved in cancer using cell culture systems.
The graduate program at Vanderbilt emphasized excellence in research at the expense of teaching experience, which is the part of my training that I wanted to strengthen. Since coming here to UNC-Chapel Hill I've had the opportunity to gain some teaching experience, both in a classroom as a TA and one-on-one training students in basic laboratory techniques. What was most rewarding about these teaching experiences was the positive feedback I received from the students, especially when I was able to communicate a complicated concept to them and witness that mental 'click' that occurs, allowing them to make the next association on their own. From these experiences I have come to realize that teaching is what I truly enjoy and want to do as my profession.
The most appealing aspects of the SPIRE program are the opportunities offered to postdoctoral researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill to tailor their careers towards teaching. Through SPIRE, I look forward to building upon the training I have and to gaining the real-life experiences necessary to strengthen my teaching skills/abilities, so I can get students interested in and excited about studying science.
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