School of Public Health Assistant Professor Silvia Balbo has been named to a list of emerging investigators by the American Society of Mass Spectrometry for her work searching for the causes of cancer rooted in human DNA.
“It’s an honor to be recognized and it means we are going in the right direction,” says Balbo.
Balbo uses mass spectrometry, a technique for analyzing the chemical composition of things, to understand changes to human DNA triggered by environmental exposures or behaviors.
“We use high-resolution mass spectrometry to characterize DNA damage and to understand how various exposures — including environmental, dietary, and lifestyle factors — may interact with DNA and generate chemical modifications that could ultimately lead to mutations,” says Balbo.
For Balbo, the complexities of the research and the potential to help prevent future cancer cases drives her to use mass spectrometry in new ways.
“I love challenges and the idea of pushing the limits of the instruments we are using to perform analysis only a few other labs in the world are doing,” says Balbo. “The results from this work may lead to a better understanding of how exposures may result in the development of cancer, which could help us to find ways to prevent these events from happening in the first place.”
The list of emerging investigators included 14 scientists, of which only two were women — a number Balbo hopes to help improve. “My goal for the future is to support and train more women in this field to eliminate this imbalance.”