Battling the Emperor of All Maladies

emma batchelder

Emma Batchelder ’17 

Emma Batchelder ’17 has long been interested in cancer research and treatment, and she’s combining what she learns about it in the classroom, at her internship and in the lab. “This synthesis is what real science is to me,” she says. “In a scientifically illiterate society, these are the kinds of experiences that people should be exposed to throughout their education.” Learn more about this accomplished student-leader and student-scientist, including her cutting-edge research, the lessons she learned from cancer patients and nurses, and the class that made her view society anew.


Biochemistry & Molecular Biology.

Clubs and organizations:

I AM THAT GIRL, President’s Commission for Women, Trans Advocacy Committee, Community Advisor (Residence Life and Housing), Girls on the Run (Lancaster and Carlisle), student researcher (biology department) and Dean’s List.


2015 Student Leader of the Year.

Favorite book:

The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Favorite movie:

The Shining.

On choosing Dickinson:

I was really nervous about the whole college application and decision process; I had applied to an ungodly number of schools and had no idea where I wanted to go. I knew I wanted a small liberal-arts college, and when I visited Dickinson, it just felt like home. I really connected with my admissions counselor, Molly Boegel, and figured that if even a small number of people on campus were as warm, loving and passionate as she was, then Dickinson was the place for me.

Favorite place on campus:

Rector Science Complex.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Fish tacos from the KOVE!

Favorite class so far:

[Associate] Professor [of Sociology] Amy Steinbugler’s The City, the Suburbs and the Inequality of Place, which I took my sophomore year. Initially, I was quite nervous to take this class, since my sociology experience was limited (and Denny [Hall] is scary!), but I loved it. Professor Steinbugler is such a terrific teacher, and the class made me think about my life and community in a totally different way.

Favorite professor:

My favorite professor is [Associate Professor of BiologyMike Roberts. I’ve taken four of his classes—Understanding Cancer; Genetics; the Biology of Cancer; and Genomics, Proteomics, and Bioinformatics—and I am researching in his lab. Mike is wonderful for a number of reasons, including his passion for biology and cancer research and his dedication to helping his students. I’ve learned so much in the classroom and lab from Mike, and I also really enjoy talking to him outside of the classroom. All of us in the lab have a great relationship with Mike—it’s really been one of the defining features of my Dickinson experience so far.

As a kid, I wanted to be …

… a princess. I’m not kidding. Luckily, my aspirations are now a little more realistic.

Biggest influence:

My parents have always supported me in all I have wanted to do. My dad has given me endless support, advice and laughs. My mom has shown me what a powerful, independent woman looks like. I hope to one day be half as successful and dedicated as they are.

About my internship:

During the past two summers, I had internships at Lancaster Cancer Center, a cancer treatment facility in Lancaster, Pa., where I worked with the nursing team to tend to patients receiving chemotherapy treatment and infusions. I learned a lot about the ins and outs of cancer diagnosis and treatment, but I think the most valuable lessons I learned were through the personal relationships that I built with the patients and nurses. Each and every one of the patients and nurses taught me something unique about love, life and believing in yourself—and the importance of organized teamwork. These are lessons that I will take with me for my entire life.

About my student-faculty research:

We look at differential gene expression in acute myeloid leukemia cells upon treatment with PMA, a phorbol ester. Before I even got to Dickinson, I had an interest in cancer biology, and I shadowed oncologists in my area and observed research in labs at Franklin & Marshall. After taking several classes with Mike, I felt as if I were able to contribute something valuable to the lab. It doesn’t hurt that I’m able to research with people that I genuinely enjoy spending time with. Having friends to chat with makes PCR [a technology in molecular biology used to amplify a single copy or a few copies of a piece of DNA] a lot more enjoyable! I also learned a great deal about research methods, teamwork and critical thinking in the lab. It has been really rewarding to see what I’ve learned in my molecular biology, genomics and chemistry classes all jibe with and support each other in the lab.

Learn more

Published January 13, 2016