Work That Matters

Trainee Spotlight: Kevin Stachelek

A fifth-year PhD student, Kevin is studying patterns of genetic mutation in retinoblastoma.

When Kevin first learned about DNA as a kid, the scientific world had just celebrated an exciting achievement: the sequencing of the human genome.

“The idea that we knew the blueprint for humans seemed incredible to me,” he shares. “Then, through school, I came to realize that the hard problem is how to make sense of all that information.”

Today, Kevin is a fifth-year PhD student in the USC Cancer Biology and Genomics Program. At CHLA, he works in the lab of David Cobrinik, MD, PhD, which is focused on retinal development and a childhood retinal cancer called retinoblastoma.

“Retinoblastoma is an interesting disease in that the initial mutation is very well characterized, but later genetic changes are much less common than in other cancers,” he explains. “Their effects are not well understood.”

Kevin’s project aims to better understand these changes. Specifically, he is working to identify patterns in “copy number variants” in the early stages of this cancer. “These large-scale genetic mutations are challenging to evaluate because they can easily affect dozens of genes at a time,” he explains. (You can read about the team’s latest paper in the Publication Highlight section of Impact Factor.)

Originally from Orange County, Kevin says he is grateful for the mentorship of CHLA scientists. Outside of the lab, you’ll often find him “cooking excessive meals” and trying out new restaurants with his girlfriend.

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