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Meet Phaedra Ghazi!

McMahon Lab (Oncological Sciences)

Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from, what degree(s) do you have? What are your interests?

My name is Phaedra and I am from Massachusetts (just outside Boston). I have my B.S in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. After graduating, I was a technician in Kevin Haigis’ lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston for two years. Besides science, I love outdoor activities like hiking, camping, skiing, and anything really! I also love spending time with my friends and family. I love music and going to shows. Phish is my favorite band who I have seen over 25 times.


Why did you choose the U for graduate school?

I was really interested in the Huntsman Cancer Institute in particular because I wanted to do cancer research specifically and I knew of some of the faculty here. When I came on the interview here it was my first time in Utah and I just got the feeling that I would really enjoy spending time here based on my interests. I also felt that there was a really good work life balance and the Bioscience program is an umbrella program so you can join a lab from many different departments.


Tell me about your lab. What do you study?

I just joined Martin McMahon’s lab in the Huntsman Cancer Institute. The lab studies novel therapeutic options for patients with multiple types of cancer including melanoma, pancreatic and lung using in vitro cell culture models and in vivo mouse models. I am studying a novel pathway targeted therapeutic option for patients with KRAS-mutated lung adenocarcinoma.


Why did you choose to join your lab?

My previous PI was friends with Martin which led me to request interviewing with him. I really enjoyed my interview and asked to rotate in his lab. I honestly liked all the labs I rotated in, but I thought Martin would be a great mentor and his research lined up with my interests perfectly.


What do you like the most about living in Salt Lake City?

I like the proximity to the mountains and national parks (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef) the most about living in Salt Lake City. I also like that availability of activities outside of school. There are music venues, museums, bars, restaurants, and many parks. Also, I am vegan and there are so many vegan restaurants here!


What do you like the least?

The air quality is the thing I liked least about living in Salt Lake City. The air is not bad everyday by any means but there are days and even weeks (in the winter) when it is bad which is not fun. Thankfully, it seems to be a strong topic in the political field right now so hopefully we will see steps to address this issue with renewable energy sources.


What do you like most about being a graduate student?

I have always loved working on experiments in lab and learning in a more hands on way, which is the majority of what my graduate school experience will be. Although I did take a fair amount of classes the first year, I still enjoy learning and improving my skill set.


What types of things do you do outside of class and lab?

Outside of class and lab, I like to do pretty much any activity outside including just relaxing outside. I also love going to see different bands and artists of a wide variety of music. I enjoy running and yoga. I also love playing with my cat.


What does a typical weekday look like for you?

A typical weekday during the school year includes going to class and lab during the day and then doing school work/lab work at night. A typical weekday during the summer includes going to lab all day and then coming home and doing something outside until night! I personally liked to get to bed on the earlier side.


What does a typical weekend look like for you?

My weekends usually include 1 or 2 hikes (or skiing in the winter), grocery shopping, getting a vegan treat like a donut from Big O Donuts or a cinnamon roll from City Cakes, potentially going to a show one night or just going out with some friends. 


What advice would you give to someone applying and interviewing for graduate school?

My advice would be to apply to a wide variety of schools (location, size, etc.) and have an open mind when interviewing. When deciding on where to go, my advice would be not to choose a school based on a name, do what feels right to you when you are there. You will have to spend a long time at wherever you choose, so you want to pick somewhere you will be happy at!


Last Updated: 9/28/21