FEATURE | Posted Dec. 8, 2016

It's in the genes

Mother's health challenges inspire daughter's molecular medicine studies

Foxy Robinson in a lab

Foxy Robinson’s fascination with science was born of concern and compassion for her mother, who suffers from glaucoma and cataracts.

Driven by a determination to understand the molecular bases of these and other illnesses, the 20-year-old UC Davis biochemistry and molecular biology student is pursuing a scientific research career.

Robinson said it’s been stressful and emotional because surgeries to correct her mother’s vision problems have not been successful. She hopes to do better. Her research is focused on kinesins, motor proteins, and how they promote DNA repair. She is fascinated by how the proteins interact in the cytoplasm (the substance between the cell membrane and nucleus), and the effect they have on the way DNA is repaired in the cell nucleus.

Supporting cancer research through endowments

"I was elated to be able to share what I have learned, explain my project and why it’s important.”

—Robinson

Helping Robinson reach her goals was a grant from the newly established Ralph de Vere White Endowed Education Fund, which covered travel expenses to a 2016 annual biomedical research conference for minority students held in Tampa, Fl., earlier this month, where she presented a poster on her research.

"I was a little nervous to present my research in front of experts,” Robinson said, “but at the same time I was elated to be able to share what I have learned, explain my project and why it’s important, and make new friends and memories with other undergrads like me.”

The endowment, created by Antoinette de Vere White, the retired UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center director’s wife, supports the training of the next generation of medical professionals who will continue to study and find new ways to fight against cancer.

Mentoring to advance diversity in science

Robinson also is interested in mentoring other undergraduate students. During her first two years at UC Davis, she was part of the Biology Undergraduate Scholars Program, which provides intensive professional development for students interested in biological sciences. Through the program, she built relationships with colleagues and mentors, and today, serves as a peer advisor to give back and encourage others towards careers in science.

Robinson currently is a participant in Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE), a program that offers unique training and career development opportunities to enhance and increase diversity in the cancer and cancer health disparities research workforce. Through CURE, undergraduates work directly with scientists and community leaders, gain laboratory experience and develop research skills.

Robinson is also a member of Mujeres Ayudando La Raza, a community-service organization, and the student-run Imani Clinic, which has enabled her to engage with the African American community in Oak Park.

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