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Aaron Crain is a doctoral student in the Curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology. He is originally from Pittsburgh and is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. He uses a fruit fly model to study cell growth and animal development in the lab of Dr. Bob Duronio, professor and director of the Integrative Program for Biological and Genome Sciences.

Aaron Crain


What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?

One of the biggest reasons was the friendly and collaborative environment. Science is a lot more fun when you’re surrounded with people who genuinely want to help you succeed. UNC also has the Biological and Biomedical Sciences umbrella program (BBSP) that allowed me to explore different scientific interests in my first year.


Tell us about your research.

Proper development of any organism requires control of cell growth, division and differentiation into many different cell types. I study how proteins that package DNA in the nucleus, called histones, are modified to regulate development of an entire organism from the genetic information in a single cell. Cancer cells are often reprogrammed to function like developing cells in order to grow and divide rapidly. Therefore, one goal of my research is to understand mechanisms of normal development to find ways to better target cancer cells.


What does it mean to you to be a first-generation graduate student in your family?

Being the first in my family to pursue a Ph.D. is both an honor and a privilege. While it sometimes presents barriers in communication, I am thankful that my family supported me and gave me the freedom and confidence to follow my curiosity into an unknown environment. I want to reward their faith in me and have a positive impact on those around me, both personally and professionally.


What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?

I want to grow as a scientist, both at the bench and in the way that I think about and communicate my research. I also want to provide opportunities and mentorship to other first-generation students, which is something I plan to continue throughout my career.

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