Counter Mentee Siqi Li Honored
By: Lindsay Key, MFA, MNR, Senior Science Writer and Editor, Duke University School of Medicine
Duke Cancer Institute Blog Editor's Note: Siqi Li, a student in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology under the mentorship of Duke Cancer Institute member Christopher Counter, PhD, is one of six senior PhD students to have received the Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence in basic science research. She successfully defended her thesis in October 2020 and expects to graduate in December 2020.
"Siqi is an amazing young scientist, and it is was wonderful for the School of Medicine to recognize her hard work with the CARE award," said Counter. "Investing in our students is an investment in the next breakthrough in cancer. "
See Li's bio in the highlighted section below this article.
by Lindsay Key
Six senior PhD students in the School of Medicine were awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence for outstanding accomplishments in basic science research.
Elizabeth Fleming, Kyle Gibbs, Siqi Li, Morgan Parker, Atul Kaushik Rangadurai, and Amy Webster were recognized at a virtual ceremony on Monday, November 16, 2020, and also received an engraved plaque with a cash award of $1,500.
The students, who were nominated by faculty members from basic science departments in the School of Medicine, were selected by a committee of faculty members on the basis of their publication records, impact on the research trajectory of their labs, and positive influence on their local academic communities.
“This year's nineteen Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence (CARE) nominees represented outstanding research and scholarship that reflects Duke's high standard of biomedical graduate training,” said Beth Sullivan, PhD, professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and associate dean for research training. “The six awardees excelled in their innovative, high caliber science in key areas of biomedical research. Even at this early stage, their strong publication records have shifted paradigms and opened new avenues of research in their respective fields. Their nominators praised their independence, creativity, scientific rigor, intellectual engagement in their labs and the academic community. I was also impressed by the extraordinary tenacity, resilience, and professionalism that each has exhibited throughout their training experiences here at Duke.”
Siqi Li successfully defended her thesis in October 2020 and expects to graduate in December 2020.
Working with her mentor Christopher Counter, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Li researches the mechanisms that contribute to the mutational bias of cancer genes, including tissue-specific occurrence of particular driver mutations, using a mouse model.
Her recently published work applied a highly sensitive mutation detection technique to capture mutations in Ras genes, the most frequently mutated oncogenes in cancer, in mouse tissues immediately after carcinogen exposure to evaluate the mutagenic specificity of the carcinogen.
She discovered that the mutagenesis bias by carcinogen at the nucleotide and tissue level contributes significantly to the mutational bias observed in the tumor. Li's current work focuses on determining how additional factors active in the processes following mutagenesis limit the spectrum of mutations observed in the tumor.
Her ultimate goal is to answer the fundamental question of how cancer arises, in particular what processes are causing the mutations and what factors are determining the outcome of these mutations.
RAS Mutation Tropism
by Siqi Li, David MacAlpine, PhD, and Chris Counter, PhD, for the National Cancer Institute
“Why do we get cancer?” remains one of the most fundamental yet intractable questions in cancer biology. The answer may lie, at least in part, in understanding how the process of tumorigenesis first begins. However trying to capture that one single, ostensibly random mutagenic event, in a single gene, in a single cell, decades before it will manifest as cancer is challenging to say the least.