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Thinking Inside the Bax

Irena Grauzinis (BCHM 3rd Year), Elgin, Illinois

“Imagine an active volleyball player sitting down and very quietly working with hundreds of tumor microarray samples, each sized at about 1 millimeter in diameter. This is another side of the athletic Irena: calm, patient, and precise,” says Jialing Xiang, professor of biology in the College of Science at Illinois Tech, describing one of her former research assistants, Irena Grauzinis (BCHM 3rd year), who also is a varsity volleyball player. “Last summer she analyzed more than 600 tissue samples and generated very meaningful data for our cancer research project,” Xiang notes.

Grauzinis worked in Xiang’s laboratory from 2013 to 2015, ultimately earning a College of Science Undergraduate Summer Research Stipend to further her work analyzing the correlation between the amount of a colon cancer indicator (Bax∆2) and the cancer’s aggressiveness. This research counts for just a portion of the work that Grauzinis has done to prepare for her prospective admission into a medical program. Since 2013 she has been assisting patients and the occupational therapy staff as a volunteer at Chicago’s Mercy Hospital & Medical Center. She recently applied for her third medical brigade trip to South America as a participant in the Illinois Tech chapter of MEDLIFE (Medicine, Education, and Development for Low-Income Families Everywhere). Each of these experiences has helped to forge her desire to one day make an impact on the quality of health care in underprivileged and underdeveloped communities around the globe.

“Nothing is more fascinating to me than the human body and learning how it works,” says Grauzinis. “I knew that I wouldn’t always have volleyball in my life, but my coming out of college with a meaningful degree that I worked hard to achieve is what’s most important to me.”