Jing (Jessica) Zhao, Ph.D., M.Sc.

Upon finishing a combined three-year clinical medicine and two-year public health training for my undergraduate study in Tianjin Medical University in China in 2009, I furthered my master’s degree of science in Medicine in Canada. As a recipient of the Atlantic Cancer Research Training Program's Trainee Fellowship, I started to explore the inter-related risk factors of colorectal cancer within a large population based case-control study of colorectal cancer in Canada. With previously gained extensive training in biostatistics, clinical medicine, epidemiology, environmental health, nutrition, and toxicology, I intend to better understand the etiology of cancer by studying the nutrient-gene interactions during my PhD study.

Under the guidance of Dr. Qi Dai, I am currently investigating whether polymorphisms of the gene, which regulates calcium and magnesium reabsorption and homeostasis, modify the effect of calcium, magnesium, and Ca-Mg ratio intakes on the risk of colorectal neoplasia through a two-phased (discovery and replication) genotyping study nested within the Tennessee Colorectal Polyp (TCPS) Study. Another clinical trial project I am involved in aims to understand whether magnesium supplements help to regulate the balance of Ca-Mg ratio in the prevention of colorectal neoplasia in the population of different genotypes.

Why Vanderbilt?
Both methodology-oriented curriculum and unique research team guidance from the beginning of the program led me to join in this fabulous PhD program.  It is a great experience to learn from knowledgeable professors in a variety of areas. A small instructor-to-student ratio ensures each student can obtain sufficient guidance at any time. Doing research work weekly in a team helps me apply what I have learned from courses and get first-hand experience in conducting research.  The education at the Vanderbilt integrates training and research across the theory and practice of clinical medicine, laboratory, public health and quantitative disciplines, which will provide students with the latest and comprehensive training in epidemiology. The Vandy PhD training program treats each student as a member of a family, in which I enjoy a lot not just while studying but also in my daily life.