Rebecca Delconte is a postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of immunologist Joseph Sun in the Sloan Kettering Institute. She is the recipient of the 2021-2022 Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSK Postdoctoral Fellowship, which will provide two years of financial support.
Dr. Delconte’s research focuses on the metabolic pathways of immune cells called natural killer (NK) cells, which play an important role in controlling cancer. In an interview in March 2021, she spoke about what motivates her as a scientist and how she came to her specific research interests.
When did you know you wanted to be a scientist?
It’s kind of a sad beginning, but I realized I wanted to be in the medical research field when my auntie passed away from cutaneous T cell lymphoma. She was only in her early 40s, and I was 19 at the time. After that happened, I became determined to work in cancer immunology.
I became very passionate about this and have always tried to work in translational areas of cancer immunology so that I can try and make a difference to the lives of cancer patients in some way.
What is your academic background?
I grew up in Melbourne, Victoria in Australia and stayed in Melbourne when I finished secondary school to complete a Bachelor of Science (Honors) at the University of Melbourne.
After my bachelor’s degree, I worked at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) as a research technician. I started working on NK cells there and couldn’t get enough, so I stayed at WEHI for my PhD, where I worked on the regulation of certain proteins in NK cells and how this could be exploited for cancer immunotherapy.
Why did you decide to come to MSK for your postdoc?
In terms of furthering my passion for cancer immunology and immunotherapy, there was basically nowhere else I wanted to go! The opportunities, collaboration, and mentorship (especially from my own lab head, Joseph Sun) that are offered here are second to none. I couldn’t imagine doing my postdoc at any other institute.
What do you like to do when you aren’t in the lab (and there’s not a pandemic going on)?
I really enjoy playing music. I play the guitar and piano, and I sing. Under non-COVID circumstances, you might find me at an open mic night. I also love to cook, specifically Italian food!