Visitor of the Week: Mackenzie Davenport


Meet Mackenzie Davenport of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Mackenzie is a graduate student and member in the lab headed by Dr. Mick Edmonds. She is currently on campus training at the 37th iteration of our Mouse Development, Stem Cells & Cancer course – her first course at CSHL.  

What are your research interests? What are you working on?
I’m really interested in the genetic mechanisms underlying disease. I’m currently working on studying genetic and molecular mechanisms involved in lung cancer pathogenesis.

How did you decide to make this the focus of your research?
Lung cancer is a devastating disease, acting as the number one cause of cancer-related deaths, and while several of the genetic drivers of lung cancer have been identified, a lot of them have been found to be “untargetable,” or cancer cells quickly develop resistance mechanisms to current approaches. This really highlighted a huge unmet need to further understand other genetic mechanisms underlying this disease.

How did your scientific journey begin?
I think high school was a really pivotal time in my life: I took an AP Biology class by an incredibly enthusiastic and talented teacher; I met a little boy battling muscular dystrophy; and a friend’s mother passed away from lung cancer. These events happening concurrently and simultaneously really inspired a need to understand how genetics and DNA were playing a role in disease.

Was there something specific about the Mouse Development, Stem Cells & Cancer that drew you to apply?
I’m really interested in mouse models and how better models can be made to more accurately recapitulate disease, so learning a lot of the techniques -- from zygote isolation and microinjection to mouse embryonic stem cell culture -- essentially how to make a genetically engineered mouse model, was really appealing.

What and/or how will you apply what you’ve learned from the course to your work?
In addition to sharing the techniques that I have learned with my lab mates, one of the biggest things I will apply to my own work is a greater perspective on cancer, especially from a developmental viewpoint.

What is your key takeaway from the course?
The course has been a fantastic experience, and one of the biggest takeaways is having been able to meet so many amazing scientists who are leaders in their fields and actually being able to learn directly from them.

If someone curious in attending a future iteration of this course asked you for feedback or advice on it, what would you tell him/her?
The course is amazing, and I highly recommend it. In such a short amount of time, there is so much information that you can learn about mouse development, the creation of mouse models, stem cells, etc. It really is a privilege to attend and is an invaluable experience.

What do you like most about your time at CSHL?
The campus is absolutely beautiful, and there are so many fantastic people to meet who are visiting from all over the world.

Mackenzie received a scholarship from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to cover a portion of her course tuition. On behalf of Mackenzie, thank you to NCI for supporting and enabling our young scientists to attend a CSHL course where they expand their skills, knowledge, and network.

Thank you to Mackenzie for being this week's featured visitor. To meet other featured scientists - and discover the wide range of science that takes part in a CSHL meeting or course - go here.