Lissah Johnson (G3, Sarosiek lab)

Where are you from and what do you enjoy most about your hometown?

I am from Elk Grove, CA -a suburb of Sacramento. One of my favorite things to do is go to downtown Sacramento to check out the amazing murals painted around the city, enjoy our famous “farm-to-table” cuisine at one of the up-and-coming restaurants ,or walk along the waterfront. It’s also close enough to the mountains, beach, or SF Bay Area if I feel like a nice day trip for a change of scenery.

What is your research focused on?

My research is on understanding how apoptosis, or programmed cell death goes wrong in ovarian cancer. We know that evading apoptosis or programmed cell death is a hallmark of cancer but the regulation of this signaling pathway is quite nuanced and complex. It’s controlled by the BCL-2 protein family and we see changes in function and expression of some of the family members in neoplastic transformation. I’m looking to understand how regulation changes as cells go from normal to cancerous, what is the contribution from endogenous and exogenous exposures, and if this changing regulation opens up therapeutic targets to better kill ovarian cancer cells.

What is your favorite part of your research?

I think the internal reproductive tract (aka the female assigned reproductive tract) is such an amazing and undervalued organ system. I’m really enjoying learning more about the cells that make it up (like the cells of the fallopian tube epithelium) and hoping to contribute new, much-needed insights to the field!

How do you relax when you’re not working?

I love going for long walks or short runs around the Emerald Necklace, reading a good book, eating delicious food with friends, or going salsa/bachata dancing.

 Tell us about an activity outside of lab you’re involved in and why it’s important to you

One of my favorite experiences so far has been getting the chance to work on the Beauty + Justice podcast with Dr. Tamarra James-Todd, the Mark and Catherine Winkler Associate Professor of Environmental Reproductive and Perinatal Epidemiology, and Marissa Chan, a PhD candidate in the PHS program at HSPH. The podcast unpacks how historical and current narratives about beauty have perpetuated economic, social and environmental injustices. I’ve gotten the chance to put into practice translating science for a broad audience on a topic that hits very close to home as a Black woman, and help raise awareness about an often overlooked environmental health issue. It’s given me the chance to grow more into the community-engaged, adept-at-communicating scientist that I aspire to be.