(March 28, 2017) -- Meet Rehan Akbani ’02, ’05, ’09. He’s using his UTSA computer science education to fight cancer and save lives.
Born in Pakistan, Akbani enrolled at UTSA straight out of high school. He received his bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, in 2002 then went on to complete his master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science in 2005 and 2009, respectively.
This three-time Roadrunner enjoyed being part of the UT System so much that he joined the faculty at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center after earning his doctoral degree. Today, he’s an associate professor in MD Anderson’s Department of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, where he has published more than 70 peer-reviewed papers that have been cited over 26,600 times.
Akbani’s field of interest is bioinformatics. He’s currently the principal investigator on four active grants with applications in cancer research. Overall, his work spans the biology of 33 types of cancer.
“I was always interested in basic sciences, especially computer science, electronics and biology,” Akbani recalled. “I used to read biology books on my own for the love of the subject. Bioinformatics seemed like the perfect juxtaposition of the two subjects and it was an emerging field of research at the time I graduated.”
“When I entered the field, there was a natural demand for bioinformaticians that spoke both languages – computer science and biology – and the research field was wide open at the time.”
Notably, the UTSA alumnus is a major contributor to The Cancer Genome Atlas, the largest cancer research project ever funded by the National Cancer Institute and National Human Genome Research Institute. Through the project, researchers around the nation are studying cancers at a molecular level to learn more about the biology of those cancers and to identify new molecular targets for therapy to explore in future research.
In one of Akbani’s current projects, Pan-Gynecologic and Breast Cancers, he’s studying molecular similarities and differences among breast and gynecologic cancers such as ovarian, uterine and cervical cancers.
Through his research, he expects to apply therapies that are successful in one gynecologic tumor type to other gynecologic tumor types with the same vulnerabilities. He also expects the findings to potentially help in locating the source of a patient’s tumor (e.g. cervix vs. lower uterus) so clinicians can tailor therapies to their patients.
It’s a line of work that Akbani is thrilled to pursue.
“I wanted to do research that would have a real impact, and cancer research felt like it was worth spending a lifetime on.”
Do you know a Roadrunner who is achieving great things? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we may consider your suggestion for our next installment of Meet a Roadrunner.
This UTSA tradition is a fun, engaging opportunity for Roadrunners to learn about the facilities, recreation programs and wellness services offered at the Main and Downtown Campuses while also enjoying tons of games and activities with new and old friends.Recreation and Wellness Center Texas Room (RWC 2.214) and San Antonio Room (RWC 2.218), Main Campus
The UTSA Ambassadors are here to help students find their classes before the first day of school! Bring your class schedule to the UTSA Ambassadors table in the Student Union Ski Lodge (near Chili’s Too!), and they will help you navigate the campus to find your classes.Student Union Ski Lodge (SU 1.01.00), Main Campus
Kickback at the Union is a welcome back event for new and returning Roadrunners. Come relax and learn about the Student Union, enjoy free food, games, photo booth, and a chance to connect with each department in the Union. Arrive early for free t-shirt and stay late for a movie.Student Union Paseo and Buildings, Main Campus
Following Kickback, stick around the Union for a free screening of Avengers Infinity Wars.Student Union Retama Auditorium (SU 2.02.02), Main Campus
The Honors College welcomes its new freshmen with a breakfast, meet and greet with Honors College administrators, faculty, staff and peers and an opportunity to learn about the experiences they will have with the Honors College.Student Union Denman Room (SU 2.01.28), Main Campus
This UTSA tradition marks the start of a new academic year. All new students gather together as UTSA President Taylor Eighmy, administration and faculty welcome them to Roadrunner Nation.Convocation Center, Main Campus and overflow seating in Recreation and Wellness Center
This is an opportunity for students to learn everything they need to know about their major and college. Each UTSA academic college has a lot to offer including mentoring, class information, support and research opportunities.Various locations, Main and Downtown Campus
This is a casual event where new students can meet their college mentor.Recreation and Wellness Center, Main Campus