Hannah Duperry '20, '21G

Ready to Take Aim at Cancer
Hannah Duperry '20, '21G

Hannah Duperry ’20, ‘21G received her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and behavior with a minor in psychology and her master’s degree in molecular and cellular biotechnology (MCBT) from UNH.  The MCBT program is a professional master’s program that requires one year of academic work followed by an internship during the summer.  

“The program is designed to fast track your career, which is why I chose to do it,” says Hannah.

She has accepted a position at Oncorus, where she will be continuing to conduct cancer research and developing potential treatments using viral RNA.

COLSA: How would you explain your discipline and/or research to a non-scientist?

Hannah Duperry: The MCBT program did not require me to do research, or to complete a thesis, but I decided to join Dr. Sarah Walker's lab to gain more lab experience and to learn cell culture. The research I did while completing this program was meant to further research into drug treatments for cancer, specifically ovarian cancer.

I grew cells in 3D and tested different drugs to determine if they effectively decreased the number of cancer cells, meaning the potential of being a treatment. I also tested drugs in combination because using two drugs at lower doses may work better than one drug alone, along with reducing side effects in patients to improve their quality of life while undergoing treatment.

COLSA: Why is your research important?

Hannah: The research I conducted is important because finding better treatment options for cancer treatments is crucial. While chemotherapy and radiation are proven to be effective at treating cancer, they also cause a lot of side effects and decrease the quality of life of some patients. Finding more effective treatments, or even combination treatments, may allow us to reduce side effects so patients do not feel as sick while being treated.

Ovarian cancer itself does not have a high recovery rate, because it is usually undiagnosed until it reaches Stage 3 or 4. It is extremely important to look further into the signaling pathways lead to the development of these types of cancers, as well as find drugs that shut down the overactive pathways and are more effective at treating ovarian cancer.

"I am passionate about the work that I'm doing, and I am driven by the hope that it will one day make a difference in the area of cancer treatment."

COLSA: Have you learned/discovered anything during your research that’s surprised you? If so, what?

Hannah: While I didn't personally learn this information, I did a couple studies that supported the results another lab member found. The lab has started working with statin drugs that appear to do a really great job at reducing cancer cell numbers in breast and ovarian cancer. I find this extremely interesting and promising, and I hope the current and future members of the lab continue to investigate if there are more supportive results.

COLSA: What do you consider your biggest challenge?

Hannah: My biggest challenge was learning to do my work independently and hold myself accountable for getting all my work done. I learned this when I started my undergraduate degree, but it was re-learned when I started graduate school because the expectations for you as a graduate student are higher. I felt as though the professors expected you to learn the information, and learn it at a deeper level, which is something I wanted to do.

As a graduate student, you want to succeed and you want to learn all that you can, which is why you apply to graduate school in the first place. Having to complete 30 credits of graduate level work in one year versus completing 30 credits in 2 or more years was a lot more pressure than I thought it would be. It was very challenging work, but it was also very rewarding.

COLSA: What drives you?

Hannah: What drives me is my love of knowledge and wanting to further research. I am extremely grateful to be a woman in STEM and to have advisors and professors who believed in me as much as they did. I am also very fortunate to have an extremely supportive family. All of that is what drives me to succeed, because they all believe in my potential, and I want to live up to that. I am passionate about the work that I'm doing, and I am driven by the hope that it will one day make a difference in the area of cancer treatment.

COLSA: What are you most proud of?

Hannah: I am extremely proud of my success in the MCBT program. During my undergraduate years, I did not take the types of courses I took during this graduate program, and I was not familiar with tests and techniques used for the cellular or molecular level. My drive to understand how things work, as well as my strong work ethic, allowed me to succeed in this program.

COLSA: Why did you choose UNH?

Hannah: I chose the MCBT program at UNH because of my meeting with Dr. Rick Cote, who ended up being my advisor for my year of graduate school. I already knew I loved the campus and professors in the program's department, but he sold it to me based on the connections and reach that the professors have in the industry. After speaking with Rick, I knew that I would be successful and learn a lot more from this program than a different type of master's program.

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