Faces of IICD: Hannah Khanshali, SRP Alumna

Editor's note:

Faces of IICD is a newly created blog series to allow our members to share more about their career paths and personal stories.

Hannah Khanshali
edited by Brittani Wright
April 08, 2024

Hannah Khanshali is a senior in the Macaulay Honors College at The City College of New York, majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry. She participated in the 2023 IICD Summer Research Program (SRP) through the Institute collaboration with the S Jay Levy Fellowship at CCNY. After the program ended, Hannah decided to continue working on her research project. In the latest "Faces of IICD" blog series, Hannah shares her experience taking part in the SRP and how the program was a turning point when deciding her career goals.

I'm Hannah Khanshali, an undergraduate researcher at the IICD, and my path from aspiring veterinarian to cancer biologist has been anything but linear. Currently interning in Dr. Elham Azizi’s Lab, I'm focused on spatially profiling T-cell receptor clonotypes in human cancer tissue, under the guidance of Dr. Lingting Shi, a postdoctoral research scientist. Our goal is to dissect the complex interactions between tumors and the immune system, ultimately paving the way for innovative cancer therapies.

My journey into science was shaped by a childhood filled with exploration alongside my mother, a biology enthusiast. Despite initially aiming for a career in veterinary medicine, my undergraduate years at The City College of New York's Macaulay Honors College led me to discover my true calling in cancer biology, immunology, and bioengineering.

Participating in the IICD Summer Research Program was a turning point for me. Introduced to the program through the S Jay Levy Fellowship at CCNY, I found myself immersed in an interdisciplinary community dedicated to pushing the boundaries of scientific exploration. The program's seminars, tours, and intimate discussions with leading scientists provided invaluable insights and lifelong friendships.

Clockwise: Hannah presenting her Poster at the end of the IICD SRP. The 2023 Azizi lab. Lingting and Hannah admiring the wall in the McFaline-Figueroa Lab where fun science puns that motivate their real science planning on the same board are displayed. Hannah working on a PCR for her project amplifying TCRs in spatial and single-cell cDNA.

Reflecting on my experience, my proudest moment came during the process of writing my term paper. As I looked back on the research I conducted during my ten weeks in the SRP and the following semester, I realized the personal growth I had undergone, not just in advancing my project but also in articulating my scientific ideas and finding my place in the world of science.

For prospective SRP interns, I offer words of encouragement: embrace curiosity, step out of your comfort zone, and seize every opportunity to learn and grow. Ask questions, explore new topics, and nurture a spirit of ambition.

In closing, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to my mentors, Dr. Elham Azizi, Dr. Lingting Shi, Dr. José McFaline-Figueroa, and the entire Azizi and McFaline-Figueroa Labs. Their guidance and support have been instrumental in shaping my passion for research and fueling my aspirations for a future in scientific discovery. In particular, Lingting has been an integral part of my development as a scientist. Not only did she teach me how to perform experiments, but she has taught me how to improve and troubleshoot experiments, develop new ideas, and think as a scientist.  I look forward to continuing my career in research as a post-baccalaureate and then through a PhD in the future in the field of cancer engineering or cancer biology.