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Molecular & Cell Biology & Genetics (MCBG) Student Highlight - Kritika Hanamshet

Kritika Hanamshet, PhD

2019-2020 Student Highlight
PhD in Molecular & Cell Biology & Genetics, 2020

Dr. Kritika Hanamshet is the winner of the 2019-2020 MCBG program student highlight. Kritika earned her PhD in 2020 for her doctoral dissertation research entitled “The essential role of RAD52 in BRCA-deficient cells.”

Kritika was born and raised in India and graduated from D. Y. Patil University with an accelerated BS/MS degree in biotechnology. Her ambition and strong commitment to pursue a career in cancer biology led her to move to the Unites States and enroll in Drexel’s Cancer Biology master’s program in 2014. She was awarded India's prestigious J.N Tata Scholarship to pursue her master's studies. Kritika initiated her cancer research work under the guidance of Alexander Mazin, PhD, within the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology.

Her master’s degree in cancer biology served as a stepping stone to transition into the MCBG PhD program with advanced standing in 2016. Dr. Mazin says, “During her master’s studies, Kritika has demonstrated excellent productivity, a high degree of intellectual engagement, excellent interpersonal skills and ability to pursue independent research projects.” During her doctoral studies, she obtained a variety of scientific skills including nucleic acid analyses, protein purification, protein assays, drug discovery and development, and mammalian cell culture, all of which will lead her to a successful career in biomedical science.

Her doctoral research project focused on DNA repair mechanism in cancer cells. About 50% of hereditary breast cancer patients have mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2. These patients have a deficiency in a specific DNA repair mechanism. However, cancer cells in these patients still have residual DNA repair activity that supports tumor survival and progression. Hanamshet decided to target a DNA repair protein, RAD52, to eliminate DNA repair activity in BRCA-deficient cancer cells. For this purpose, she identified small-molecule inhibitors that target RAD52 and eliminate BRCA-deficient cells. Kritika’s work will significantly contribute to the development of cancer therapeutics in BRCA-deficient cancers.

Kritika’s dissertation research project was highly recognized and supported by the Dean's Fellowship for Excellence in Collaborative or Themed Research in 2018. Her research work resulted in a patent and publications in prestigious journals such as Cell Reports, Molecular Cell, Genes, and Nucleic Acids Research. She also expects to publish additional papers in the near future.

Kritika has attended numerous scientific conferences to disseminate her work including the Gordon Research Conference of DNA Damage, Mutation, and Cancer; the Life Science Futures conference; and the BASSER symposium. Her project was highly recognized and selected for a platform presentation in 2018 at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center Education Retreat. She also presented her research results at Drexel Discovery Day and received an Outstanding Senior Graduate Student Poster Award in 2019.

The MCBG program believes that Kritika will make great contributions to the development of anti-cancer therapeutics. Currently, she continues to work as a postdoctoral fellow in the Mazin laboratory before she moves to Boston to start as a postdoctoral scientist at EMD Sereno.

A Molecular & Cell Biology & Genetics program graduate student working in a laboratory at Drexel University College of Medicine.