Attacking Cancer by Working Together
Pinku Mukherjee, Irwin Belk Endowed Professor

“Cancer is 200 different diseases, so no one person will eradicate them all,” says Dr. Mukherjee. “However, several faculty researchers each focused on one disease can attack cancer by working together.”

She and her team created an antibody, developed diagnostic and therapeutic tools, and plan to make more critical discoveries on the long road to fight cancer. “Medical engineering and nanosciences are not the future, they are now,” she says. “Biologists, physicians, chemists and engineers usually don’t communicate. But it’s happening more with cross-disciplinary programs and ideas that serve multiple interests.”

She views mentorship as the most important influence on a career in any field. Mentors helped her think critically, so she returns the favor now by guiding high school interns, graduate students and young faculty members. “I encourage them to see and use opportunities to work their way to the top,” she says. “But not spoon-feeding them answers-that’s not how life works.”

She believes students should be independent, critical thinkers who speak their minds. “I tell them if they disagree in my lab, come argue with me. Differing opinions help you see other perspectives. That’s how I know my student is a researcher.” She loves when young scientists are eager to share their discoveries. “I expose undergrads to research right away. More than hearing about the work, it’s exciting to see what’s going on firsthand.”