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WHOC Alum Making Strides in Medical Field

Zimmer doing research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.
Zimmer doing research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.
Feb. 2, 2018

STORRS, Conn. – Just two years removed from graduating with biological sciences and molecular cell biology degrees at UConn, Margaret Zimmer is making strides in her field of choice at one of the world’s most renowned cancer institutes.

Zimmer, a member of the UConn women’s ice hockey team from 2012-16, is currently doing research in Dr. Haining’s lab at both the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT with the intention of applying to medical schools this summer.

Since completing her athletic career with the Huskies, Zimmer has taken advantage of her opportunities – wasting little time in becoming a noted published researcher in the journal “Nature.” First published in 1869, Nature is one of the world’s top academic journals and one of the most frequently cited.

Zimmer was part of a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center to develop a novel screening method that has revealed new drug targets that could enhance the effectiveness of PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors – a new type of cancer immunotherapy.

“Having the opportunity to be part of such meaningful and cutting-edge research this last year-and-a-half has been such a rewarding experience,” said Zimmer. “The fact that I was lucky enough to get a research job right out of college working on a project that I still am excited to work on every day is in no small part due to my time as a student-athlete at UConn.

Zimmer added, “Coach Mackenzie always made academics a priority on our team and truly worked hard to ensure that we succeeded as much as possible off the ice.

During her undergraduate years, she gained research experience in the lab of Dr. Kenneth Campellone, whom she described as a “great mentor” and as a big reason for her success in post-graduate work.

The article was published with the help of 19 team members, including Zimmer as the third author, and was titled “In vivo CRISPR screening identifies Ptpn2 as a cancer immunotherapy target.” Nature published the article on July 27, 2017.

I think a lot of researchers view Nature as the premier journal for publication, so to be a third author on such a high impact paper in this journal, especially as my first publication, has been a dream come true,” said Zimmer.

As she continues to thrive in the scientific and medical fields as a senior research associate for a project aiming to identify more immunotherapy targets in a multitude of cancers, Zimmer hopes to pursue the next step in her education this year. A native of St. Charles, Ill., it seems she has found comfort in the East Coast, though it is undecided as to where medical school will bring her.

She plans to apply to 12 different medical schools all over the country, including Duke and Stanford, as well as Ivy League schools Harvard, Penn and Yale.  

During her UConn tenure, she played in 144 games, with only her freshman season played under former head coach Heather Linstad. For her final three seasons, she helped usher in a new era under current coach Chris MacKenzie.

The 5-foot-7 forward tallied 33 points as a Husky, recording 14 goals and 19 assists in her four seasons on the team. Zimmer helped lead UConn to consecutive appearances in the Hockey East semifinals in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

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