Jess and Mildred Fisher Endowed Chair, Department of Biological Sciences
As a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute, one of the things Petra “Peko” Tsuji missed most was teaching undergraduate students. “TU is one of the few comprehensive universities where both teaching and research matter,” says Tsuji. “This is the type of institution I was looking for.”
In moving to Towson University, Tsuji has placed the university at the forefront of cancer research with her pioneering work on the roles of certain selenoproteins and selenium in human health and disease, particularly the role of the 15kDa selenoprotein in inflammation and colorectal cancer. “We are making headway in two pathways: the role of 15kDa in regulation of colon cancer, and in identifying certain populations that through mutations or gene expression changes are more susceptible to colon cancer, which has huge implications for screening and avenues to prevent colon cancer.”
Tsuji is clear, “If a student has any goals related to research or medical school, they need undergraduate research experience.”
“Students enter Towson University and many don’t know what it takes to be a scientist or how to approach a project,” she says. “We help them learn molecular lab techniques and start thinking critically.”
One of her most satisfying experiences is interacting in the lab with students. “I see them developing into fantastic scientists and persistent, motivated students,” says Tsuji, who created and teaches a course on the biology of cancer. “These students leave Towson University potentially with their names on published manuscripts, or they contribute to book chapters.”
Her position has been key to supporting such efforts. “The endowed chair position signifies that TU sees promise in me and supports me. It also meant additional funds to bring students into the research lab and to buy needed equipment and supplies for cell culture.” To support female students in research and STEM in general, Tsuji also serves as the Women in Science Club faculty co-mentor.