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Cancer Biology Program Students

Rick Heinz

Student Questionnaire:
Why did you choose the UC Denver Cancer Biology Program?
UC Denver was a place I could feel excited about moving to and earning my PhD at.  There are also a lot of labs doing breast cancer research here, a disease I specifically wanted to do research on after loosing my mom to it a few years ago.  I entered the school through the Biomedical Sciences Program, which gave me an opportunity to earn more about the different programs offered at UC Denver before choosing one.  I ultimately choose the Cancer Biology Program because I was more interested in the research being done by students in this program than in the others.
What labs did you rotate in?
Pepper Schedin, PhD
Jennifer Richer, PhD
Carol Sartorius, PhD
What Lab you joined and why?
One reason I choose to rotate in and finally join Jennifer Richer’s lab was to work in a newer area of research, microRNA (miRNA).
Please describe you project?
Of all miRNAs that decrease between pregnancy and lactation, miR-150 decreases the most dramatically.  It is also one of a few miRNAs that are significantly lower in tumor versus normal mammary gland epithelia in 8 transgenic models of mammary cancer, and my lab has found by in situ hybridization that it is lower in breast cancer clinical samples while high in adjacent uninvolved breast epithelium.  Therefore, we hypothesize that miR-150 is not only important in the process of normal secretory activation in the developing mammary gland but also may act as a tumor suppressor.  To test this, I will be examining the effects of miR-150 knockout in the mammary gland and tumorigenesis using the Cre-LoxP system with mice expressing mammary specific Cre as well as MMTV-Neu mice.  I am also studying whether restoration of miR-150 has any antitumorigenic effects on breast cancer cell lines.  My goal is to identify the relevant targets of miR-150 during normal development and breast cancer to determine if miR-150 or one of its targets might serve as a therapeutic agent or target in breast cancer.
Where did you attend undergraduate school and what was your major/minor?
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
BS, Biochemistry
What you did (if anything) between undergraduate and graduate school?
One drawback to graduating a year early was missing the opportunity to do undergraduate research.  I more than made up for that as a lab technologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine for several years prior to graduate school.


School affiliated clubs/activities
University of Colorado Oncology Group

What do you like to do outside of school?
I love skiing, but anything else outdoors is fun too.
What is your favorite thing about Colorado?
It isn’t flat.
Your contact information-
office number
(303) 724-3711

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