New faculty spotlight: Leah Cook, Ph.D.

December 13, 2017

Image with caption: Leah Cook, Ph.D.

Leah Cook, Ph.D.

Leah Cook, Ph.D., is a new faculty member at UNMC.

  • Name: Leah Marie Cook, Ph.D.
  • Hometown: Birmingham, Ala.
  • Title and department: Assistant professor, UNMC Department of Pathology & Microbiology; associate member, Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center

Research/professional interests:
My primary interest is in identifying immunotherapeutic targets for preventing and treating bone metastasis and cancer-induced bone disease.

Education:

  • B.S., biology, University of Alabama-Birmingham, 2006
  • M.S., biology, University of Alabama-Birmingham, 2007
  • Ph.D., molecular & cellular pathology, University of Alabama-Birmingham, 2011

How I fell in love with cancer research:
I first fell in love with cancer research one summer as part of a summer research program at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. It was my first experience in biomedical research. I was assigned to a research project investigating the impact of dietary polyphenols such as resveratrol, a potent compound found in red wine, on prostate cancer carcinogenesis.

I found cancer research to be fascinating because it's so complicated and it's intriguing how our own cells can just go rogue and begin operating on their own in a very organized system. What's even more interesting is how our immune system, i.e., our personalized military system, can be coerced into helping the tumor grow. During my first research experience, I also learned how much work still needs to be done to understand cancer progression in order to help fight cancer and save patients.

Because metastasis is what typically kills patients, I decided to devote my attention to identifying and developing new therapies for treating and preventing metastatic cancer.

Three things people may not know about me:

  • My first experience in a lab was as a work-study student at The University of Alabama in the department of geology, where I cleaned dinosaur bones that had been excavated in Alabama. I had the opportunity to clean a Mosasaur jaw bone, one of the dinosaurs recently shown in "Jurassic World."
  • I love comedy and writing fiction and once wanted to be a comedic writer for "Saturday Night Live."
  • I love anything related to water and love going kayaking in my spare time.

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