Alumnus receives cancer research fellowship
Photo courtesy of IU Communications
Riverside, Calif. (Feb. 19, 2021) – The journey for Gabriel Muhire Gihana (’13) took him from Rwanda to California Baptist University then Indiana University for further study. He is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Gihana recently received a postdoctoral fellowship from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. The four-year award encourages young scientists to pursue careers in cancer research by providing each one $231,000 to work on innovative projects.
“This fellowship means that people believe in the significance of my research plan, which of course, strengthens my confidence,” Gihana said. “This fellowship is yet another blessing from God as He continues to lead my way. It is also a testimony to the great support that I have had throughout my academic training from Rwanda to CBU and Indiana University and now at UT Southwestern Medical Center.”
Throughout his research journey, Gihana has been fascinated by cells. In 2012, he did an internship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a researcher who studies cancer cell metabolism.
“Cancer is a devastating disease that affects many dimensions of human life, a disease that is also often difficult to treat. Cancer is fundamentally a cell disease,” Gihana said.
Cancer occurs when cells divide uncontrollably, Gihana said. It is known that some cancer cells can adopt a different morphology, but it is not known if and how this change in morphology affects cancer development, Gihana said. His research looks at how cellular morphology affects molecular signaling in cancer cells.
“We still have a long way to go to significantly decrease cancer-related deaths. The decrease will require bold and innovative research,” Gihana said. “In the future, I would love to expand my research program and engage in teaching so I can pass the torch on to younger people.”
Gihana came to CBU on a scholarship from a partnership between the government of Rwanda and CBU. He studied biochemistry and molecular biology. He had friends who helped him integrate culturally—they taught him how to drive and about American football.
“From them I learned much about the rich American culture. I was a growing young man when I came to CBU, and the interactions I had with friends from CBU have contributed to who I am today as a person,” Gihana said.
He also grew in his faith.
“At CBU, God’s mission and love take the center, and that is unique for a university,” Gihana said. “At CBU, I had a spiritually rich experience, which not only strengthened my faith but also helped me equilibrate my discipline as a student.”
Gihana said CBU professors inspired him to pursue his passion no matter how challenging.
“I had very caring professors who went above and beyond not only in teaching me but also in supporting me in and outside the classroom,” Gihana said. “I owe my CBU professors a great deal of who I am as a researcher today. They instilled in me critical thinking skills that are necessary for scientific inquiry.”