Sara Musetti and Manisit Das, UNC Ph.D. students and co-founders of OncoBites.

For Sara Musetti and Manisit Das, Ph.D. students in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, their commitment to research doesn’t stop in the lab.

Das and Musetti founded OncoBites, a blog that posts summaries of new developments in cancer research. Das said part of the motivation for the blog came from a question he always received – “When will there be a cure for cancer?”

OncoBites is meant to explain scientific research in an accessible way and includes information about the complexity of the research process and how long it takes to implement new treatments. Blog posts are crafted by a variety of contributors, including people from industry and academia.

“We really wanted to reach out and share the science with everyone, so you can know exactly what is going on,” he said.

Musetti added, “We are trying to explain cancer from all different viewpoints.”

Das and Musetti were both proud of how the website has grown. Today, they have readers in over 120 countries, and keep receiving emails from interested readers. Das recently wrote a blog post for Scientific American about the story behind OncoBites.

Both students said time management was a difficult part of managing OncoBites. Musetti said this past summer, the blog “blew up” and doubled in size. Das said being aware of other people’s strengths was another crucial part of the job. They both agreed it was important to be realistic and understand the contributors all had other careers. They also prioritized balance –  Musetti enjoys cooking and making bread in her spare time, while Das goes on hikes.

When they’re not running the blog, Das and Musetti are both research assistants in the Leaf Huang, Ph.D. lab, within the Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Therapeutics. There, they focus on nanoparticles and gene therapy. Musetti said nanomedicine was particularly interesting in the way it interacts with the human body. She was interested in both biology and chemistry, and came to UNC from Massachusetts for what she said was the “amount and quality of science.” Das came from a background in engineering and chemistry and moved from a small town in India to a larger city for his undergraduate degree. He applied to UNC through the Biological and Biomedical Science Program (BBSP), an umbrella admissions program for 14 Ph.D. programs across the entire campus.

As for the future of OncoBites, the two are considering either continuing the website themselves or passing it down to other graduate students. They both hope to incorporate science communications into their future careers. Das said he was interested in the translational aspect of the research process and doing something that can benefit patients.

“I would love to see myself involved with scientific outreach in some way, or the clinical trial process,” Musetti said, adding she wants her work with research to go beyond the lab bench.

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