New Investigator: Rebecca Oberley Deegan, Ph.D.

January 13, 2016

Image with caption: Rebecca Oberley Deegan, Ph.D.

Rebecca Oberley Deegan, Ph.D.

This profile is part of a series to highlight the researchers who will be honored at a ceremony for UNMC's 2015 Scientist Laureate, Research Leadership, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator Award recipients.

The New Investigator Award

New Investigator Awards go to outstanding UNMC scientists who in the past two years have secured their first funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense or other national sources. New Investigators also had to demonstrate scholarly activity such as publishing their research and/or presenting their findings at national conventions.

  • Name: Rebecca (Becky) Oberley Deegan, Ph.D.
  • Title: Assistant professor, biochemistry and molecular biology, College of Medicine
  • Joined UNMC: August 2014
  • Hometown: Iowa City, Iowa

Research focus:
Radiation protection

Describe your research briefly in layman's terms.
Most cancers are treated with some form of radiation, but radiation also damages normal cells. As more people are surviving cancer therapy, the quality of life for these cancer survivors is often reduced due to radiation damage of normal tissues. Currently, there is nothing given to patients while undergoing radiation therapy to protect normal tissues. We are trying to address this problem with our research.

How does your research contribute to science and/or health care?
One of the drugs that our lab has been working with will be entering clinical trials in early 2016 as a radioprotector for patients receiving radiotherapy for head and neck cancers. It is rewarding to see the translation of research into clinical treatment. I am excited that a drug that I have been working on for the past 10 years might actually help patients suffering with cancer!

What is the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you, professional or personal?
Don't be afraid of failure. Both of my parents taught me this.

List three things few people know about you.

  • I met my husband at a date auction when we were in graduate school. I always say it was the best $20 I've ever spent.
  • I come from a family of scientists. My father and my uncle (they were identical twins) were scientists in the same field that I now work. Unfortunately, they have both passed on but I like to think I am keeping their science alive.
  • I have lived in four cities (Iowa City, Grinnell, Iowa, Denver and now Omaha) thus far, and all of these cities are connected by US Highway 6!


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January 16, 2018 at 7:04 PM

Hi Becky Congratulations!! Jag (Dr. Bhalla's Lab- long time back)

Sathish Kumar Natarajan
January 19, 2016 at 1:48 PM


Kusum K. Kharbanda
January 13, 2016 at 10:03 AM