In college, I followed my intellectual curiosity and became a mathematics/computer science/electrical engineering hybrid. But curiosity alone was missing something fundamental. I craved a way to use my knowledge and skills to help people in a unique and meaningful way. A class with the professor who later became my graduate advisor provided that answer. A small-scale collaboration with Dr. Charles Keller became the foundation of my doctoral work, and a moonshot chance to help cancer patients around the country. A few tumultuous years later, and I’m a proud member of cc-TDI. At first, working on a disease like cancer that afflicts so many people in this country and around the world was a source of deep gratification. But, as I connected with siblings and parents of pediatric cancer patients, as I felt their anguish and frustration and listened firsthand to stories of their family’s fight against cancer, that distant pride faded. I recognized it is a privilege to fight for all the children to come, to carry on the legacy of those we have lost, and to serve families impacted by childhood cancer. That privilege drives me to work until 2AM through bleary eyes, to write grants, code essential algorithms, and analyze data for pediatric cancer research.   My time working in pediatric cancer biology has shown me the great need for approaches that move beyond the world of standard biological research, incorporating new approaches and new technologies that embrace mathematics and engineering alongside biological research. The Cancer Math methodology we have developed represents this expansive way of approaching the next stage of cancer research: treatments designed by mathematics and biology, personalized to the patient.  The “Rebel Scientist” series is comprised of guest blogs from our cc-TDI researchers, engineers and collaborators explaining their motivation for working to make all forms of childhood cancer survivable.  If you would like to learn more about the work the Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Institute is doing to initiate clinical trials for rare pediatric cancers, please visit our website or contact Erin Benson.

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