Stephanie Tzetzo

Competition and Collaboration in Roswell Park’s Graduate Program

Stephanie Tzetzo, MS, Predoctoral Trainee, Department of Immunology
Friday, October 30, 2020

Growing up with two parents who worked in medicine, I naturally leaned toward that field when it came time for me to decide what career path I wanted to follow. I attended Williamsville East High School, majored in biology at Canisius College, and then earned my master’s degree in microbiology and immunology from the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine.

While I was pursuing my master’s degree, I realized what a career in research would be like and started envisioning myself in that role in the future. I loved biology and oncology in college. I was fascinated by disease and how it impacts the body. By studying it at the molecular level, we can develop better treatments that will provide a greater quality of life.

Once I knew I wanted to continue my career in research, I came to Roswell Park to shadow for a day. I was immediately overwhelmed by the friendly atmosphere and the impressive professors and training.

What drew me to Roswell Park’s graduate program was the philosophy that the student becomes the teacher. The PhD program provides a strong educational background for trainees and teaches them the hallmarks of cancer, the underlying biology and the clinical aspects of the disease. They even have a grantsmanship course that teaches students how to write a grant application. With help from my mentors, I was able to apply what I learned in the grantsmanship course to obtain an F31 grant, which is extremely competitive and is offered only to predoctoral fellowship principal investigators to fund their research.

My research focuses on macrophages, specialized cells that are the body’s first line of defense. I am studying how they provide a defense against cancer and what we can do to equip these cells to fight off tumors at sites where the cancer has metastasized, or spread from one part of the body to another. Different proteins, including some called transcription factors, can make these macrophages stronger and more effective in fighting cancer cells.

I’m so grateful for the support and guidance of my professors and mentors. The graduate program at Roswell Park fosters a kind, nurturing environment to help students achieve their best work. There is a spirit of both competition and collaboration, allowing us to move forward as a team, work together and learn from one another.