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Research to Reduce Cancer Rates

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Joanina Gicobi ’15 traveled more than 3,000 miles from her home in Meru, Kenya to Clarkson’s campus in Potsdam. New York and equatorial Africa certainly have their differences (snow, for one), but she says the people in both places have a lot in common.

“I’ve been welcomed here — on campus and in the village — like I’m family,” she says. “Postdam community members have an adoption program that invites International students into their homes. We meet each week to have dinner or do something fun. It’s a great way to learn about American culture!”

Gicobi says many of the people she’s met have made her feel at home, even though her two brothers and six sisters are thousands of miles away. She says this openness seems to be part of Clarkson’s culture and a product of the University’s small size.

“I work closely with my professors and I see them almost every day. So it’s easy to get help with course work or research.”

In addition to her double major of biology and psychology, Gicobi is working on a project examining cervical cancer at the cellular level. By focusing on the specific part of the cervix where this type of cancer originates, she says her research can shed light on its causes — and, ultimately, on prevention, as well.

“Once our research yields results,” she says, “we can take our findings to medically under-served parts of the world — like my village in Kenya — and reduce rates of cervical cancer. It’s now one of the leading causes of death in the developing world.”

And whether it’s rural Kenya or elsewhere, Gicobi says she wants to work in the social and cultural landscape of the developing world — once she becomes a medical doctor or earns her doctorate in biology. Or both.

But, before that, she’d like to spend a little more time hiking nearby in the Adirondacks and exploring the villages of northern New York.

“While this place is very different from Kenya,” she says, “it feels tightknit, like home. One of my professors invited me to Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t know if it would be like this in a big school or a big city. But I’m glad I found Clarkson. This is what I thought college should be like.”

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Joanina Gicobi