We can’t help but be in awe of recent strides being made within STEM fields, especially those that are women-led. We’re committed to showcasing women who have made exemplary strides within their STEM careers by highlighting the innumerable opportunities available when one pursues a career in STEM. This month we are placing the spotlight on Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green, a physicist who has recently been making waves in the STEM world with her groundbreaking cancer research. Read more about how her research can change the way cancer is treated, and we’re positive it will inspire you to continue (or begin) to study STEM!
Who: St. Louis native Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green is one of less than 100 black female physicists in the United States. An assistant professor at Tuskegee University in the Department of Material Science and Engineering, she earned her master’s and Ph.D degrees at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and became the second African-American woman to receive a doctorate in physics from the university.
What: A former tomboy as a child, this former Miss Alabama A&M Homecoming Queen was exposed to the effects of cancer at a young age. After losing her parents at the tender age of four, she went to live with her aunt and uncle, General Lee Smith and his wife Ora Lee. Ora Lee was later diagnosed with cancer and lost her battle to the disease due to refusal of treatment. Three months after her death, her uncle was diagnosed with cancer. While accompanying her uncle through the chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she came to further understand why her aunt didn’t want to experience the life-altering side effects of chemotherapy. It was during that time that she made the decision to use her background in laser and optics to uncover a process to treat cancerous cells without affecting healthy cells.
When: In 2015, Dr. Green won a $1.1 million grant to further develop her patent-pending technology for using laser-activated nanoparticles to target, image, and treat cancer. “I was completely overwhelmed with joy, with thanksgiving, humbled at the opportunity that a group of my peers thought that my work was worthy for such a grant,” Green said. She highlighted the fact that this is a huge door opening that will outline a path to take her treatment to clinical trial.
How: The way Dr. Green’s technology works is through the injection of a FDA-approved drug containing nanoparticles into a cancer patient, which causes the patient’s tumor to glow under imaging equipment. The end goal is to have a laser activate the nanoparticles, which are not toxic, by heating them. Because the nanoparticles are not toxic, they won’t kill anything without the laser and “the laser by itself is harmless, so without the particles it won’t hurt anything,” said Green. “Because of their need to work together and their inability to work apart, I can insure that the treatment is only happening to the cancer cells we target and identify.”
Why: The last seven years during her master’s and doctoral programs at UAB have been spent developing a way to target cancer cells only, leaving the healthy ones unaffected. Because of the way cancer is currently treated in America, patients often get a three-to-six month survival benefit from the drugs they’re prescribed. When that timeframe has lapsed, patients are sent home with no hope. Green said those are the patients she wants to try and save – the ones where regular medicine isn’t effective for them.
To learn more about Dr. Green and her groundbreaking cancer research, click here.