Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Helen Unger watched her mother battle cancer and initially decided to join the fight by becoming a doctor. Eager to roll up her sleeves and get to work, she graduated high school early and enrolled in pre-med studies at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women—a plan Unger formed in ninth grade.
As a freshman, Unger found her envisioned career path had evolved. Excited by the amount of research opportunities available to undergraduates on campus, she had started work in the breast cancer research laboratory of Dr. Marina Holz, assistant professor of biology. “In Dr. Holz’s laboratory, we work to identify therapeutic targets against which new cancer treatments can be developed,” said Unger. Holz’s problem-solving approach to cancer research fascinated her.
As a junior majoring in cellular and molecular biology, Holz encouraged Unger to apply for the Thomas J. Bardos Science Education Award for Undergraduate Students. She was recently selected as a winner and is the first YU student to be chosen. The two-year award, given to a handful of students across North America, is intended to inspire young science students to enter the field of cancer research. It provides them with unique educational opportunities in the development of their careers in science and a $1,500 stipend to attend the next two American Association of Cancer Research Annual Meetings, where Unger will have the chance to meet and hear from leading researchers and potentially present her research with Holz.
“I’m looking forward to the award putting me in touch with people who are higher up in the cancer research realm,” Unger said. “It provides me with good contacts and a lot of exposure to what’s going on in research around the world. I’m also excited to represent YU and Orthodox Jewry at the conferences and to show them what we’re all about.”
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