Michelle Gras is a junior in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science who is working toward a B.S. in Biological Chemistry. Michelle is both a member of the Soar-in-4 program that provides high-achieving student research opportunities and mentorship, and she is also a Morton Fellow. The Morton Fellowship offers students the unique opportunity of a scholarship and funding for research that benefits the broader South Florida community.
What type of research are you performing?
I currently work in FAU’s Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology with Drs. Shailaja Allani and Herbert Weissbach. I am researching a drug combination that kills cancer while preventing normal cells from being damaged by the increased oxidative stress incurred from cancer treatment. I do this by growing cancerous and noncancerous cells to test drugs on them and assess cell death and mitochondrial damage from the treatments. I am interested in drug design, and I hope to expand my research into this area.
What are your biggest accomplishments so far at FAU?
My most significant accomplishments at FAU are becoming a Soar-in-4 Scholar and a Morton Fellow. The Soar-in-4 program offers students the unique opportunity to receive advising from leadership within the College of Science like Interim Dean Teresa Wilcox, Ph.D. and Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Evonne Rezler, Ph.D. This allowed me to begin research in Drs. Allani and Weissbach’s lab, which in turn led me to becoming a Morton Fellow.
Who are your faculty mentors?
My FAU faculty mentors are Drs. Shailaja Allani, Herbert Weissbach and Evonne Rezler. I work under the guidance of both Drs. Allani and Dr. Weissbach in their lab. I am quite lucky to be in their lab! Most undergraduates are not given as much access to lab work. Plus, they are both exceptional scientists who have been so influential in the fields of biochemistry and molecular biology. Dr. Rezler has been instrumental in helping me find my current position in the lab, providing professional guidance, and granting me access to rare opportunities within the College. I am very grateful for my mentors because they are always enthusiastic in their support and enjoy passing along their knowledge.
What do you like most about FAU?
My favorite thing about FAU is the number of opportunities that are available. Since FAU — and especially the College of Science — is always trying to grow, there are many developmental programs for students. I especially love that these experiences seem to be composed of a diverse population that is reflective of the broader community, bringing a much-needed perspective to science.
What are your plans after graduating?
After graduation, I would like to attend medical school and complete an M.D.-Ph.D. program, and perhaps become a research physician in oncology. I hope to run trials on drugs like the ones that I am currently researching. I believe that seeing the drug creation process from the lab bench to the exam room will be very rewarding.