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Lab Rat of the Week: Veronica E. Manzo '13

Veronica E. Manzo ’13 conducts research on treating an aggressive type of brain cancer, but she also does what many traditional researchers do not do—she interacts with cancer patients.

“Through my volunteering at Dana-Farber [Cancer Institute], I work in hands-on care,” said Manzo, a neurobiology concentrator. “I give 10-15 minute massages to a wide variety of patients, all with different types of cancer ... It’s made my research a lot more personal.”

Manzo began investigating cancer in her freshman year at Dana-Farber, where she worked in clinical breast cancer research.

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Most recently, the Leverett House resident spent the summer at DePinho Laboratory to study Glioblastoma Multiforme, the most common form of malignant brain tumor found in humans. The project, conducted through Harvard’s Program for Research in Science and Engineering, involved targeting and killing a particular type of tumor cell.

“It is a very progressive, deadly disease,” said Manzo. “For patients that have this type of tumor, we would be able to inhibit the growth of their tumor cells.”

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Throughout the summer, Manzo spent over 40 hours a week in her lab, working alongside her postdoctoral fellow and several graduate students.

She said that her initial experience was challenging because there was a “steep learning curve” to the research techniques used in the lab.

But others in the lab said they were impressed by Manzo’s research abilities.

“Veronica is very diligent, “ said Rujuta Narurkar, a senior research associate who helped train Veronica in the lab. “She is good at multi-tasking and was very involved in the results.”

Currently, Manzo has moved to the second phase of her research: testing the lab’s findings on mice.

Though her cancer lab will soon move to Houston, Manzo plans to continue researching, and hopes to work on her senior thesis in the upcoming summer.

“I love working with cancer and tissue cells,” said the California native. “The fact that my research can affect a real cancer patient is the most interesting part. It provides a real motivation.”

In the future, Manzo hopes to become a doctor, and she plans to attend medical school after college.

“Doing research has helped me become a better scientist. It will play a role in my future,” she said.

In fact, through Harvard Latinos in Health Careers, she is currently planning a medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

Manzo said that aside from getting hands-on experience, she is excited to assist individuals without consistent access to health care.

“I’m really looking forward to helping these underserved, rural communities,” she said.

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