August 07, 2018

Mike Alvaro ’19 wants to make a difference in the lives of those suffering from cancer—and he’s not waiting until he’s achieved his lifelong dream of earning a Ph.D. to become a cancer researcher.

He’s making a difference right now, as a rising senior biochemistry major and biology minor at Susquehanna.

Alvaro has twice interned in a cancer research lab at Fox Chase Cancer Center. And, he’s accrued so many volunteer hours in research labs that he earned the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2017.

“I feel like the countless hours in the lab will truly help someone one day. That is quite honestly the best, most rewarding, feeling anyone doing research can feel,” Alvaro says.

He also has received several Congressional service awards and was named the Research Shining Star of Fox Chase Cancer Center.

“My overall goal is to not only run my own cancer research lab one day, but to help as many people as I can with the research I have done and will continue to do for, hopefully, the remainder of my life,” Alvaro says.

Having spent years volunteering in hospitals, Alvaro has seen firsthand how cancer treatment can be almost as debilitating as the disease itself.

“It started a passion in me to do everything in my power to help these people who are suffering,” Alvaro says.

At Fox Chase in Philadelphia, Alvaro works under Igor Astsaturov, M.D./Ph.D., whose lab is studying one of the world’s deadliest cancers: pancreatic cancer.

“The extremely diverse faculty at Fox Chase is not just extremely welcoming and kind, but it is also teeming with knowledge from all corners and backgrounds of, not just this country, but the world,” he says.

Alvaro helps researchers better understand the deadly disease by creating and running gel electrophoresis, western blotting, analyzing biostatistics, immunostaining, flow cytometry, designing and implementing CRISPR/Cas9, cultivating cell lines, removing tumors from mice and more.

“The most rewarding part of the internship has honestly been the long, laborious hours and days in the lab. I am troubleshooting the inevitable issues and finding innovative ways to circumvent any discrepancies,” Alvaro adds.