Dana-Farber lab focuses on science, equity, and inspiring the next generation

Dana-Farber’s David Frank, MD, PhD, treats patients with lymphoma and leukemia, researches new targeted therapies for cancer, and, for the last 25 years, has mentored lab members from diverse scholarly, ethnic, and personal backgrounds—working to level the playing field of scientific research one hire at a time.

“For complex issues, like discovering new treatments for cancer,” says Frank, “you need input from as many different brains as you can. People with different backgrounds, different expertise, different ways of viewing problems.”

Postdoctoral fellow Juan Carlos Hernandez-Vega, PhD, originally from Puerto Rico, brings new and important perspectives from his background in plant biology to his work studying MDS, a pre-leukemia condition, while research assistant and PhD candidate Isidora Tošić, MPharm, from Serbia, is applying her studies in the areas of pharmacology and biochemistry to her work with acute myeloid leukemia and breast cancer cells. Former lab member and New Englander Sarah Walker, PhD, spent a few extra unplanned years in Frank’s lab when she was given the opportunity to expand her projects and mentor junior lab members. She is now using her Dana-Farber experiences to inspire students in her own lab at the University of New Hampshire.

For Frank, mentoring a diverse lab team has a two-fold benefit: Embracing different perspectives accelerates scientific progress and creates role models for the next generation of scientists. As Frank asserts, “You can’t be it if you don’t see it.”

Voices from the Lab

Current and former members of the Frank Lab reflect on the value of mentorship and offer advice to the next generation.

Juan C. Hernandez-Vega, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Frank Lab

“This experience in David’s lab will allow me to demonstrate my abilities as an independent scientist and to develop my own ideas to study cancer-relevant genes. My goal is to become a faculty member of a research-intensive institution where I can both teach and conduct competitive research.”

Advice to future scientists: “Science is not an easy path. Only discipline, perseverance, and dedication will give you the opportunity to develop your potential as a scientist. Once you get it, look to impact your local and wider community.”

Isidora Tošić, MPharm, PhD Candidate

Research Assistant, Frank Lab

“Dr. Frank has continuously supported my professional and scientific development, encouraging me to learn new skills and improve my knowledge in cancer biology. This experience is a great starting point for achieving my future goals and aspirations.”

Advice to future scientists: “Never lose sight of the greater picture, which is the outcome of all our work: with the success of the work we make as a part of the research community, we are able to reshape the treatment strategies and improve the future of oncology patients.”

Sarah Walker, PhD

Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, University of New Hampshire

“When I was a young postdoc, David gave me the opportunity to have a research technician work with me, leading to a number of papers and more years in the laboratory. While this wasn’t the plan, nor is it the normal path, I was able to expand my projects to collaborate with other groups and take on more mentoring of younger members of the lab.”

Advice to future scientists: “It is not always an easy career path, but if you love it, you should find a mentor who believes in you and will support you in your goals. I am trying to emulate what I learned from David when mentoring my students in my own laboratory.”