Meet Christopher Sistrunk
Christopher Sistrunk’s presentation on “Skp2 deficiency induces hair follicular apoptosis through p53 stabilization mediated by CBP/p300” won first place in the Agriculture and Life Sciences category at the Graduate Research Symposium this spring. Originally from Charlotte, he attended three universities in North Carolina, receiving his B.S. from Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) in Biology with a concentration in Microbiology. He then came to North Carolina Central University (NCCU) for his Master’s degree with a concentration in Environmental Carcinogenesis. Currently, he is working on his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Toxicology at NC State, with expected completion in December 2009.
When he graduated from NCCU, he “was being actively recruited by a lot of prestigious schools.” However, the recruiter from NC State “gave me a card and walked away.” Later, the recruiter said that he knew NC State had the best program for Toxicology and “knew that you were going to do your homework.” Sistrunk did -- and has been greatly impressed with the NC State’s program.
Sistrunk had originally been heading towards a medical track, but he changed his focus when an advisor at WSSU asked him what he really wanted to do. The advisor had him teach his first course, which laid the foundation for him to become an adjunct faculty member at NCCU for two years. Sistrunk says that he knew this was the right direction for him because “everything else was like work.”
When Sistrunk started working on his current project, the research group had not gotten many results on his particular topic. He started getting results that caused him to become more interested in the topic. He enjoys his work in the lab because “we do everything, don’t send it off” or “depend solely on others to extrapolate the data.” It is also a well-rounded laboratory with a blend of cell cultures and animal work. At his lab, the research is both in vitro and in vivo. The problem with working with animal models is the long lead-time that often results. They are working with transgenic and knock-out mice, and there is a minimum cycle of 35 weeks when conducting a 2-Stage Carcingenesis study.
Sistrunk had a slightly different challenge from the other Research Symposium winners in that he needed to be careful not to include information on his poster that had not yet been published. He explained that his area of research is “a hot topic with a lot of people working on it now.” Sistrunk says that he has “so much more new data” that preparing the poster was “like hitting rewind.” Although he admits that the poster presentation took time away from his other work, he also said that he was just as excited on a personal level to present at NC State as at an upcoming presentation for the American Association of Cancer Research.
Sistrunk has his eye on several career possibilities for the future. He said that he would enjoy “ideally working with a government agency to develop policy.” He also would be interested in Toxicology Training at the National Toxicology Program of The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (http://www.niehs.nih.gov). However, Sistrunk can also envision a future that is “strictly academia.” He likes the idea of working in a smaller university where he would have the flexibility of teaching and lab work.