Oderah Udemadu: Summer Internship is Providing Experience with Cancer Research

Part of a series showcasing individuals in the Holy Cross community.

Photo of Oderah Udemadu in front of Holy Cross Catholic ChurchAbout a year ago, Oderah Udemadu, the eldest of Basil and Ogo Udemadu’s four children, mentioned in a conversation at a First Sunday reception that he was a chemistry major in college, but wasn’t sure that he would stay in that field.

This month, as part of the Holy Cross community’s youth recognition program, he responded to an email interview with Holy Cross Communications about how he refocused his academic path to better align with his career goals.

After completing two years of undergraduate studies majoring in chemistry at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte, Udemadu transferred to North Carolina Central University in Durham, where he now is majoring in pharmaceutical science with a minor in chemistry. “The love of science is what led me in this direction, as well as the opportunities that I’d have in life,” he said of his current academic path and career plans.

Summer Internship: Insight into a Future STEM Career

“I aspire to have a career in a STEM-related field, preferably medicine. I’d like to help people who deal with chronic or debilitating diseases and with that, I’m considering pharmacy, research, and possibly going to medical school to become a doctor. I think what led to these aspirations were a penchant for science, the love of helping others, and a desire to leave my mark in whatever community I’m in, in a positive way,” he said.

Udemadu is getting a taste of what that career path may lead to this summer, through an internship that he has with Dr. Ben Major, assistant professor of cell and developmental biology, working in Major’s lab at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

“His focus is on signal transduction pathways and how they affect cancer cells (particularly, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), colon cancer and chronic myelogenous leukemia). Some of these pathways include KEAP1/NRF2 and Wnt/β-catenin,” Udemadu said, and Major’s lab team studies “how perturbation of specific signal transduction pathways contributes to the initiation, progression and dissemination of cancer,” the professor states in his online biographical sketch

Udemadu is working on a project to find kinase inhibitors that can successfully inhibit NRF2 expression. When asked what has surprised or excited him about his experiences at the lab thus far, he highlighted his growing understanding of how cancer works at the cellular level.

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"Excited to be able to work with my own cancer cell line ..."

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“I was surprised to learn what signal transduction is, and how it lends a hand to cancer proliferation. I’m excited to be able to work with my own cancer cell line and be able to observe the responses the cancer cells give when I treat them with the arsenal of drugs available,” he said.

Udemadu said he appreciates the opportunity to have “major exposure to what doing research is actually like, and at an esteemed university like UNC, the benefits of being here are tenfold. I am getting my foot in the door and making myself competitive for grad school while learning skills and techniques as well as what life as a researcher is all about.”

He also said, "I want to give a special thanks to Dr. Ricardo at NCCU for allowing me to be a part of his lab also and helping me secure my internship and making my transition to NCCU a great one."

Holy Cross: Amazing and Blessed

Udamadu, who is 21 years old, reflected on his years growing up in the Holy Cross faith community.

“My experience at Holy Cross has been nothing short of amazing and blessed,” he said. “I was, of course, baptized, received First Communion, and was confirmed through Holy Cross. I was an altar server as a younger child, and in high school, I began ushering as well as teaching faith formation classes – and finished up this year teaching 4th and 5th graders.”

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"The support that the adults always have for us is astounding."

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When asked what the parish was like for a young adult like himself, he said, “The community was beyond supporting and loving towards me growing up, and even now still. It has honestly felt like one big family more than anything, with all of the members who watched me grow up over the years, proud of who I’m becoming.

“For young adults like me, a community like this is wonderful because it allows us to see what responsible, overachievers look like in the form of doctors, lawyers, engineers, nurses, etc., and it allows us the guidance that I think we’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. We’re seeing representation that is near impossible to find as black youth, and the support that the adults always have for us is astounding.”

Beyond the lab and his academics, Udamadu is similar to other college students. “I like to play basketball and play video games and watch movies in my free time,” he said.

“I also want to give a shout out to my parents for making me who I am and being the first role models in my life, and to my siblings for being awesome in every way,” he added.

His siblings are Olisa, age 19; Uju, 17; and Obieze, 14. Uju is among this year’s graduates recognized by the parish during our Youth Recognition Sunday celebration. She graduated from the City of Medicine Academy in Durham, with dual enrollment in Durham Tech Community College’s Career and College Promise Program and will be attending the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, majoring in psychology. She aspires to be a physician.

- by Anna Rzewnicki, Holy Cross Communications

Tags: Holy Cross College Students, Holy Cross Youth, Oderah Udemadu
 

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