Looking forward in cancer biology
Nicole Eskow (PC ’19) has always been asking questions. “After losing both of my grandmothers to cancer at a young age, I began to inquire about cancers and where these diseases originate,” Eskow said. Determined to find answers, she started to think critically about diseases such as HIV and cardiovascular disease. Eskow was not satisfied with the information she found on the internet. At fifteen, she began conducting research on leukemia treatments in her high school’s cell biology laboratory. Her passion for research has only blossomed since. Soon after, Eskow started shadowing a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Hackensack University Medical Center. After that summer, Eskow knew she wanted to pursue both research and clinical medicine.
Now a Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) major, Eskow spends much of her time working in the Krause Lab, which is dedicated to researching the mechanism that regulates hematopoiesis, the formation of new blood cells, and how that process can go awry. Eskow has focused her time on understanding acute megakaryoblastic leukemia, a type of pediatric cancer that primarily affects newborns. This kind of cancer disrupts the development of megakaryocytes, cells that produce platelets, which are important in blood clotting. “Interestingly, previous research has suggested that this cancer begins to develop in the fetus, before a baby is born,” Eskow said. Her project investigates the role of a protein known to be mutated in many patients with acute megakaryoblastic leukemia. For her accomplishments and dedication to research, Eskow was selected for the Rosenfeld Science Scholar Program, which supports promising students conducting summer research under the supervision of a Yale faculty member.
Eskow has also played an integral role in the Yale Undergraduate Research Association (YURA) since joining her freshman year. As the former co-president of YURA, she has helped give students easier access to research opportunities on campus. During her sophomore year, Eskow compiled a list of all the research labs at Yale, featuring descriptions of what the lab studied as well as the contact information and general interests of the head researcher. This program was released to the Yale community in 2016 and is now known as the YURA Research Database (RDB). “I find it incredible whenever I hear that first-years are finding research labs through the YURA RDB,” Eskow said.
After graduating, Eskow hopes to pursue an MD-PhD to dedicate her time to both research and patient care. “While I haven’t completely decided what area of medicine I’d like to pursue, I know that I’m very passionate about oncology and cancer research,” Eskow said. “I’ve really enjoyed researching hematologic malignancies like leukemia and lymphomas, and it’s definitely an area I can see myself pursuing in the future.”
Looking back, Eskow has gained a better understanding of the relationship between her research and her life. “I know that 20 or 30 years down the road I’m not going to remember the exact number of papers I published or my GPA,” Eskow said. “Over the past four years, I’ve learned that investing time in the people who love and support you is equally as important as building a career. I couldn’t imagine my life without the friends and family members who have stood by me and helped me get to where I am today.”