Shannon Mumenthaler, PhD, has been a part of the Trojan Family since 2009. She started as a postdoctoral fellow and obtained her faculty appointment in December 2012. She lectures in BIOC599: Molecular Basis of Disease. Mumenthaler has always been fascinated with science and was originally planning on attending medical school to become a pediatrician. During her senior year in college, she attended the Howard Hughes Summer Research Fellowship. During that fellowship, a speaker at a seminar described translational research as “straddling the line between bench and bedside.” At that moment, she realized she wanted to be on the forefront of discoveries to enhance human health.
Mumenthaler recognized she wanted to remain in academia during her postdoctoral training. She was a part of the National Cancer Institute’s Physical Sciences in Oncology (PS-OC) initiative, which focuses on bringing together physical scientists, biologists and oncologists to engage in innovative scientific approaches to cancer treatment. When she attended the first USC PS-OC symposium, she discovered she had common goals and skill sets with a mathematical modeler. After attending the PS-OC, she had a new perspective on biomedical sciences and a new career direction. Currently, her team is leveraging cross-disciplinary thinking among mathematicians, engineers, physicists and oncologists to discover meaningful solutions in cancer research. They are leading efforts to target aspects of the tumor’s microenvironment to improve treatment outcomes. She credits this to the team’s diverse scientific background and their ability to collaborate while collectively pushing the limits of cancer research. Mumenthaler’s ultimate goal is to predict an individual patient’s disease course and design novel treatment strategies to improve outcomes based on specific tumor microenvironmental signatures.
Her advice to graduate students is: “Perseverance! Obstacles are a mainstay in our field. It is important to hold on to your scientific curiosity even when facing hurdles. Remember you are not alone and should seek advice from your mentors.” Her advice to those interested in obtaining a PhD is that it is a challenging experience, yet extremely rewarding. There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained, but it is important to keep an open mind and embrace the unexpected. Outside of the lab, she enjoys hiking and going to the park with her family. She also loves baking for her children.