Meet the Scholars

Updated: January 21, 2014

Adelita Mendoza

Adelita Dolores Mendoza

CBC Scholar: Class of 2014
PhD Candidate, Interdepartmental Biological Sciences Program (IBiS), Department of Molecular Biosciences, Northwestern University
Advisor: Thomas V. O’Halloran


My research involves studying the role of zinc signaling in germline and embryo development in Caenorhabditis elegans. Zinc is a transition metal that plays a role in an array of cellular processes and has traditionally been considered a cofactor and structural regulator. We propose that zinc serves a novel and unprecedented role as regulator in inorganic cell signaling. Studies from the O’Halloran and Woodruff labs have demonstrated that zinc regulates meiotic progression in mouse oocytes through massive zinc fluxes and association of zinc with the zinc-finger binding protein Emi2. The discovery that zinc is a master regulator of cell cycle progression has the potential to broadly impact the study of human disease, as extreme levels of zinc present in our cells can negatively affect cell division. We are expanding studies into Caenorhabditis elegans, to exploit their short reproductive lifespan, high number of offspring and translucence.

It is unknown if zinc master regulation is a conserved cell signaling mechanism in C. elegans. Therefore, we propose to fill this knowledge gap and identify how the zinc regulated cell signaling pathway defines the developing germline. We will achieve this goal by quantifying total and labile zinc within the gonad, testing mechanisms of zinc switching events to define different regions of the gonad and identifying the molecular mechanism of master zinc regulation of the Notch signaling pathway. Information acquired from these studies will advance the knowledge base in zinc as a cell signaling regulator and lead to further understanding how zinc regulates cell cycle and thus germ cell identity, which is crucial for the development of new offspring.


Minuti G, Cappuzzo F, Duchnowska R, Jassem J, Fabi A, O’Brien T, Mendoza AD, Landi L, Biernat W, Czartoryska-Arłukowicz B, Jankowski T, Zuziak D, Zok J, Szostakiewicz B, Foszczyńska-Kłoda M, Tempińska-Szałach A, Rossi E, Varella-Garcia M. Increased MET and HGF gene copy numbers are associated with trastuzumab failure in HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. Br J Cancer. 2012 Aug 21;107(5):793-9. (PubMed)

Dziadziuszko R, Merrick DT, Witta SE, Mendoza AD, Szostakiewicz B, Szymanowska A, Rzyman W, Dziadziuszko K, Jassem J, Bunn PA Jr, Varella-Garcia M, Hirsch FR. Insulin-like growth factor receptor 1 (IGF1R) gene copy number is associated with survival in operable non-small-cell lung cancer: a comparison between IGF1R fluorescent in situ hybridization, protein expression, and mRNA expression. J Clin Oncol. 2010 May 1;28(13):2174-80. (PubMed)


  • Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC) Scholar, 2014-2015
  • T32 Carcinogenesis Training Grant Recipient, 2013-2014
  • Student Poster Award, X-Ray Fluorescence Microscopy Workshop, 2013
  • Initiative for Maximizing Student Development Fellowship Recipient, 2011-2013
  • Coauthor of the Community Building Grant awarded by The Graduate School, Northwestern University, 2012-present


  • President and Co-founder of the Northwestern University Society for the Advancement for Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Student Chapter 2012-current
  • Organizer, second annual IBiS graduate student talk series "Second Speak", 2013


  • Recruiter for the Northwestern University Graduate School, SACNAS National Conference, 2013
  • Panelist on graduate school advising
    1. Graduate school workshop and panel hosted by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, 2014
    2. Special Programs, President’s Office, Northwestern University, 2013
    3. Bridge Undergraduate Research Program, Northwestern/Roosevelt University, 2013
    4. CURE Undergraduate Research Program, Northwestern University, 2013
  • Student Mentorship
    1. Undergraduate student, Northwestern University, 2013-current
    2. High school students, Niles West High School, 2012