Kaur studies how a protein -- RhoA -- changes the shape of cells. These misshapen cells then break away and spread. If she can discover the mechanism these cells use to grow, that finding might illustrate how cancer cells spread.
“It’s terribly exciting,” says Kaur, “that my research could be a stepping stone in the long process of understanding how cancer metastasizes.”
Her research, sponsored by the Undergraduate Biology and Mathematics Training Program, allows her to indulge her twin passions: math and biology. She uses math to quantify the biological data from her cell analysis. It is a perfect research project for someone, like her, who loves biology and math.
It was as a student at Fair Lawn High School that Kaur first learned to love biology. She had an inspiring teacher who taught human anatomy by bringing a skeleton to class. “Anatomy fascinated me,” Kaur recalls, “how complex the human body is and how it all connects. And my teacher made it all so interesting.”
Her high school, though, didn’t have sophisticated labs, and most of the biology she learned was theoretical. So before coming to NJIT she didn’t do much biological research. And back then, she never realized that once in college she could combine math and biology.
Kaur is a senior now at NJIT and, reflecting back, she says her research has been the high point of her college years.
“It was an intense project,” says Kaur. “I never thought myself capable of working so hard, but I loved it.”
Her research helped her, too, on another front. She was recently accepted into the UMDNJ New Jersey Medical School, Newark. Come fall, she’s not sure what kind of medicine she’ll study – perhaps pediatrics -- but she knows this: Once in med school she’ll continue doing biological research.
She also suspects her classes and research at NJIT have given her a solid background for medical school.
“In med school,” she says, “you learn about the human body, its composition and how it works. That’s precisely what I’ve been studying for four years at NJIT.”
(by Robert Florida, University Web Services)