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Emmet Karner, Cancer Biology Program

“Science is a job of discovery. It's a job of investigation. You get to flex your creative side and your intellectual side.”

emmet karnerCarcinoma is the most common type of cancer. It’s an epithelial-derived tumor—a type of cancer that starts in cells that make up the skin or in the tissue that lines internal organs, such as the liver or kidneys.

Emmet Karner, a PhD candidate in the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UMass Chan Medical School, studies an iron-dependent form of cell death called ferroptosis. Figuring out the cell biological mechanisms that contribute to ferroptosis resistance in carcinomas could lead to new cancer therapy options and improve the prognosis for patients.

“I’ve always liked the idea of science especially as it’s kind of a job of discovery,” Karner said. “It’s a job of investigation. It’s one where you get to flex your creative side and your intellectual side.”

Karner’s mentor is Arthur Mercurio, PhD, professor of molecular, cell & cancer biology. The Mercurio Laboratory works to understand the molecular pathways that regulate the start and progression of carcinomas, especially aggressive, poorly differentiated tumors.

Karner’s science teacher at Maynard High School, Larry Vanaria, sparked Karner’s interest in science. Vanaria died of severe esophageal cancer.

“He died midway through teaching us,” Karner said. “He was just always there because he loved teaching, he loved the subject matter. That was a huge inspiration.”

Karner has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from UMass Amherst, where he was the vice president of the UMass Racquetball Club and flute section leader in the UMass Concert Band. In his free time, Karner enjoys playing music, particularly guitar, piano and flute.