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John Hancock

John Hancock

Scholar Type:

NIH Cambridge Scholar MD/PhD

Entry Year: 2021

B.S., Brigham Young University, 2015
University of Utah Medical School (In progress)


Dr. Mark Gilbert (NCI) and
Prof. Richard Mair (Cambridge)

Research Interest:

Brain tumors, Translational immunology, Neuroscience

John’s interest in biomedical research started in a high school biology class. The idea that complex processes such as DNA replication could be happening in cells that were invisible to the naked eye captivated his attention. This excitement continued to build while completing a degree in physiology and developmental biology in college and working in the immunology lab of Scott Weber, PhD at Brigham Young University. After graduating with honors, John spent a year and a half in the same lab working as a research staff and lab technician studying T cell receptor biology and T cell metabolism. His projects included using molecular biology to engineer high-affinity T cell receptors, flow cytometry to construct T cell chimeric antigen receptors, and the Seahorse bioenergetics machine to analyze the effect of metabolic protein knockouts on the mouse immune system. These efforts led to a publication in Frontiers in Immunology. Each of these projects had application within the field of cancer immunology and inspired continued study of the interactions between solid tumors and immune cells.

He then matriculated into medical school at the University of Utah with the desire to develop a more global picture of medicine and disease. After completing three years of medical school, he refined his clinical interest to neurosurgery, in part because of the wealth of research that has yet to be accomplished within the field of neuroscience. During this time, he also helped Norman Taylor, MD, PhD, transition his lab from Harvard University to his new facility at the University of Utah Department of Anesthesiology. The experience gave unique insight into building a new lab. The Taylor group focused on using optogenetics to study pain pathways in the brain, which solidified John’s path towards the neurological sciences.

In 2020 John was accepted into the NIH Medical Research Scholars Program and joined the lab of Mark Gilbert, MD at the National Cancer Institute. Considering his previous experiences with cancer immunology and interest in the neurosciences, the Gilbert lab’s translational immunology work developing immunotherapy approaches for glioblastoma was an excellent fit. What engaged John throughout his time at the NIH was the challenge of glioblastoma and he published a review on the subject in Frontiers in Oncology.

Moving forward, John’s goal is to become a surgeon-scientist as an academic neurosurgeon. He chose to work with Richard Mair, MD, PhD who is a brain tumor neurosurgeon at the University of Cambridge. His PhD project will study the interactions between glioblastoma, immune cells, and neurons to enhance understanding of the pathophysiology of the disease and identify novel treatments for brain tumor patients.

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