Adel Fergatova with faculty advisor Nesrine Affara.
Adel Fergatova with faculty advisor Nesrine Affara.

Bio Sci student publishes meta-analysis in Frontiers of Immunology

Adel Fergatova, a senior biological sciences student at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), has published an in-depth review of how cancer cells and fibroblasts interact within the tumor microenvironment. The article was published by Frontiers in Immunology, a leading international peer-reviewed journal.

Fergatova began the project the summer after her first year at CMU-Q: “I wanted to do research over the summer from my home country of Kazakhstan. I approached Professor Affara, who proposed the literature review. It was tough, but with Professor Affara’s guidance, I navigated through the challenges.”

Nesrine Affara, associate teaching professor of biological sciences, served as an advisor and mentor on the project. 

“There are many opportunities for the students, and Adel took this opportunity and made the most of it,” said Affara. “She didn’t limit herself to what is expected from me, she leveraged the resources that we have at CMU-Q and produced an exceptional piece of research.”

The project began with Fergatova examining the current scientific literature on the interactions between tumor cells and fibroblasts. She also looked at what scientists know about the crosstalk between tumor cells and immune cells, and discovered that there was a missing link: all three types of cells interact and affect one another.

“This is new,” said Affara. “By reading 140 research papers in depth, Adel put together something no one has before. It’s remarkable.”

For Fergatova, the most challenging part of the research was proposing ways that therapies could interrupt this crosstalk and inhibit the growth of tumor cells: “Professor Affara guided me, but she also gave me the freedom to explore ideas by myself. It was very frustrating, but also very rewarding.”

Fergatova pursued other research opportunities during her time at CMU-Q, including research internships at the University of Singapore and Carnegie Mellon’s Pittsburgh campus. She will graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences.

“When I started university, I knew I liked biology, but that was about all. To me, the most stressful part was how would I find the research questions? But as I did this project, my research questions just became a natural thing, and one question comes from another. I know I want this to be my career.”

In addition to biological sciences, CMU-Q offers undergraduate programs in business administration, computer science and information systems.


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