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Molecular & Cell Biology & Genetics (MCBG) Student Highlight - Michelle Swift

Michelle Swift, PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology and Genetics, 2021

2020-2021 Student Highlight
PhD in Molecular & Cell Biology & Genetics, 2021

Dr. Michelle Swift is the winner of the 2020-2021 MCBG program student highlight. Michelle earned her PhD in 2021 for her doctoral dissertation research entitled “Investigating the role of cell cycle-dependent regulation of Sp1 in double-strand break repair.”

Michelle grew up in Carmel, New York, and attended Mahopac Middle School and High School, where she was taught by wonderful science teachers who inspired her to pursue a career in science. Michelle majored in chemistry and biology as a pre-med student at the University of Hartford, Connecticut. Michelle was awarded some of the highest honors during her undergraduate studies; these include the American Chemical Society Award and the Marc W. Feldmann Memorial Award for her excellence in academics and research activities. Michelle originally wanted to become a physician; however, after graduation, working as a research technician at Burke Medical Research Institute, Michelle enjoyed the creative freedom to explore scientific ideas. This led her to apply to PhD programs and enrolled in Drexel’s Molecular & Cell Biology & Genetics PhD program in 2016. Accordingly, Michelle initiated her creative research work under the guidance of Jane Clifford, PhD, within the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology.

Michelle’s doctoral research project focused on the mechanisms underlying the DNA damage response, which is highly relevant to cancer biology. She made a series of discoveries related to the repair of DNA double-strand break (DSB), the most lethal form of DNA damage. Michelle demonstrated that the transcription factor specificity protein 1 (Sp1) dictates how different DNA repair processes are employed to maintain genome stability. Michelle also elucidated the mechanism by which Sp1 regulates histone modifications to facilitate DSB repair. Furthermore, she found that Sp1-mediated DNA repair is abrogated during cellular senescence. Her experimental results also suggest Sp1 as a promising target of cancer therapeutics.

Michelle has attended numerous scientific conferences to disseminate her work, including the AACR Annual Meeting, the EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, and the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center Second Annual Education Retreat. She also presented her research results at Drexel Discovery Day and received an honorable mention for her poster presentation. Michelle’s dissertation research project was highly recognized and supported by the Aging Initiative Graduate Fellowship (2019-2021). Her research work resulted in first-author publications in prestigious journals including Cell Reports, DNA Repair, and GeroScience, as well as one manuscript under revision at Cell Reports.

These are all remarkable achievements, which are a result of her creativity, hard work excellent time-management skills. While Michelle has been extremely productive, she always finds time to spend with family and friends. She enjoys running and hiking and is excited to explore history, psychology and art.

The MCBG program believes that Michelle has made great contributions to the understanding of genomic instability and cancer development. Currently, Michelle works as a postdoctoral fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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