BICKNESE PRIZE WINNER TAKES THE FIGHT AGAINST CANCER PERSONALLY

As a PhD student in Dr. Scott Coonrod’s laboratory, Bicknese Prize winner Dr. Sachi Horibata studied ways to stop mammary cancer cells from growing. Horibata defended her dissertation and graduated in May 2016, and today she’s a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

For Horibata, the struggle against cancer is personal. She made the decision to go into cancer research after her beloved grandmother became ill with ovarian cancer while Horibata was in college. Sadly, her grandmother died from the disease, but Horibata renewed her resolve when a relative of another cancer patient thanked her for her diligent work after an undergraduate research symposium.

”That’s when I realized how important research is to the advancement of treatment options for patients. That inspired me to continue my work in the field of oncology,” says Horibata.

Today, she’s studying drug resistance in cancer cells and looking toward a career in cancer research. She has used the Bicknese Prize funds to further her work at the National Cancer Institute by purchasing a dedicated laptop she can use at home to continue her research after hours and on weekends. The laptop was a necessity, she says, because security rules forbid her and other National Cancer Institute employees from handling confidential files on computers that are used for any other purpose. She also bought supplies to help complete her office at the National Cancer Institute, including software that helps her make professional-looking figures for her manuscripts and posters.

“The prize money was so nice,” says Horibata. “As a graduate student your stipend is just enough for living, and the prize money made my professional life so much easier.”

Dr. Joanne Bicknese, ‘76, DVM ‘78, established the Bicknese Family Prize in 2005 as an annual award to support research activities of a woman scientist-in-training. The award aims to provide funds at a critical point in the trainee’s academic development and to help launch her into a successful career. The fund honors Dr. Bicknese’s parents, Helen and Louis Bicknese, and her aunt and uncle, Grace and Carl Bicknese.