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Student Life: Changing the metabolism of cancer cells

Chemical engineer does research at the chemical/ biological interface

delisa01As a high school senior, Delisa Somoye figured she’d go to a state college or university. But her mother felt that with her grades, she should consider Rice. Now, Delisa can’t imagine being anywhere else.

“It’s been very rewarding,” she says of her experience here. “There is such an incredible support networkboth faculty and fellow students. Everyone here wants to help keep us focused and help us reach our goals.” 

For Delisa, one of those goals was doing research, and this semester she’s working with Assistant Professor Deepak Nagrath on a metabolic engineering project. As she explains it, she’s “researching how we can alter the metabolism of cancer cells using nutritional changes and then ultimately differentiate the cells so that they can no longer proliferate, or multiply exponentially.”

“Dr. Nagrath was so willing to work with me and my schedule,” says Delisa, who is a Rice cheerleader, vice-president of the Rice chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, and is active in other campus organizations. “One of the advantages of being at Rice is that it’s relatively easy to get to know the faculty on a personal level. This comes in very handy when you want to do research or have a letter of recommendation written.”

After graduation, Delisa plans to work for an energy company. She has an internship with ConocoPhillips under her belt and says she enjoyed the delisa02work. Delisa thinks her experience at Rice will give her an edge for such a job.

“They really push us here to learn more and develop solid skills,” she says. “The work is rigorous, but so many people are here to help us succeed.”