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Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Brent Cochran

What is the ultimate goal of your research?

The ultimate goal of our research is to cure cancer. However, a more realistic goal is to develop new therapeutic strategies for cancer treatment.

What excites you about your research?

This is an incredibly exciting time for biology in general and cancer research in particular. The development of new genomics, stem cell reprogramming, and imaging technologies have given us the ability to characterize and manipulate cells and organisms in almost any way we wish. It’s almost as if Ray Kurzweil’s notion of the “singularity” has actually arrived in biology. In cancer research, the modern version of the cancer stem cell hypothesis has generated tremendous excitement and along with it the hope of developing new types of stem cell directed therapies. My own research has focused on cancer stem cells derived from the glioblastoma brain tumor. These cells have properties similar to normal neural stem cells and are very different from the traditional tumor cell lines we have used for years. They grow as neurospheres and can differentiate into neuronal cell types. Nevertheless, they are more tumorigenic than traditional tumor cell lines. This has led us to explore the intersection between stem cell biology and cancer, which has in turn led us into epigenetics. This is really new territory and the field is wide open. This is a truly exciting time for cancer biology and I fell lucky to be a part of it.

What do you like best about GSBS students?

GSBS students are almost uniformly smart, motivated, personable, and proficient at experiments done. This is not an accident, because as chair of ISP admissions last year, these are the qualities we look for in our large pool of applicants.

What qualities distinguish the GSBS from other graduate schools?

Our students are the drivers of most labs here. In general, our labs tend to have more students than postdocs. Moreover, since the size of labs tends to be small and the overall number of labs is not overwhelming, students receive a lot of individual faculty attention and there are very few barriers to interdepartmental collaborations.

What do you do to relax?

I like to read (especially anything by Bill Bryson and David Lodge), play basketball, and I am learning to play electric guitar.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

There are many good ones nearby, but right now I would have to say Avila for their nice atmosphere and their Philly Cheese Steak Spring Rolls.

Brent Cochran
Home Town: Greeneville, TN
Prior Degrees: 
SB, Biology, MIT
PhD, Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, Harvard University