You may not read about her in history books yet, but she’s making history every day.

Dr. Joy McDaniel, a Birmingham native, was a student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville working in the laboratory of Biology Department Chairman Gopi Podila. “He knew I wanted to stay for my PhD and I was interested in genomics,” McDaniel recalled this week.

But thanks to Dr. Joy McDaniel’s groundbreaking research on triple negative breast cancer, it’s now led her to a postdoctoral fellowship at the prestigious University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in search for a cure.

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is one of the least treatable and most aggressive forms of breast cancer. Anyone can get this type of breast cancer, but research shows that it is occurs more often in younger women, African-American women and women who have BRCA1 gene mutations.

McDaniel was one of many students encouraged by Podila, who died in a multiple shooting at UAH in 2010. Professors in the department continued that encouragement and helped McDaniel get a position in the laboratory of leading genomic researcher Dr. Rick Myers at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

As she was beginning her PhD program, McDaniel’s best friend died of breast cancer at age 24.

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