Brittany Salazar: Lab Scientist

Brittany Salazar is a post-baccalaureate scientist living in Minnesota. She is working towards learning more about childhood cancer using zebrafish. 

What do you do?

I work in a lab that studies neuroblastoma - a childhood cancer - using zebrafish. Zebrafish are small, usually striped fish, that can be purchased at pet stores. The fish I use in the lab have various alterations to their genes, one of which causes zebrafish to develop neuroblastoma. The tumors that the zebrafish develop are very similar to the tumors that occur in children with neuroblastoma, which allows us to study the interactions among proteins and other factors which lead to the disease. Understanding these factors can help us improve neuroblastoma treatment.

What is this important? 

This work helps untangle the complex development of neuroblastoma, which can help us and other scientists develop more safe and effective therapies against neuroblastoma. Neuroblastoma is a fairly common childhood cancer, and this work has the potential to improve the lives of those affected by it.

What is the coolest thing you've learned? 

There are so many cool things I’ve learned so far! I’ve learned so much more about neuroblastoma and cancers in general. I am also learning how to use CRISPR, which is a tool that can be used to cut out pieces of DNA, causing mutations. Studying the effects of these mutations can help me work out the complex pathways that lead to the development of neuroblastoma. I’ve also learned a lot about the development of zebrafish embryos, which is a really cool process to observe!

What's your favorite STEM fact?

There are more microbes living in and on your body than there are cells that make up your body - and that is usually a great thing!

How do you inspire others to take an interest in science? 

I have had the opportunity to volunteer at local middle schools, teaching them about zebrafish and helping them make observations about the development of zebrafish embryos. Being able to observe zebrafish development in a high school biology class was an experience that really jump-started my interest in science and played a large part in me getting my current job, so this is like giving back, and hopefully inspiring new scientists!

Thanks for your contributions to science! If you’d like to nominate a STEM friend (or yourself), fill out the AweSTEM people form. You’ll also receive jewelry from Circuit Breaker Labs.