Hiruni Sumanasiri, Undergraduate student, microbiology
Pursues personalized cancer treatments
“From the moment Hiruni Sumanasiri started in my lab as a recent high school graduate, she became an integral part of my research team. She has a unique combination of self-motivation, enthusiasm and compassion that translates to an exceptional undergraduate researcher and a true joy to mentor.” -Kristina Thiel, assistant professor
Hometown: Coralville, Iowa
Faculty mentor/advisor: Kristina Thiel, PhD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, Carver College of Medicine
What is your degree program and anticipated graduation date? Microbiology, BS, 2026
Please describe your research: I study gynecologic cancer in Dr. Kristina Thiel’s lab. The lab’s primary goal is to make a difference in the care of patients with gynecologic cancers. The research in our lab focuses on ovarian and endometrial cancer, spanning both basic and translational studies of these two cancer types to deliver personalized and precision treatments to each individual patient.
In simple terms, why does this research matter? This research matters because our lab primarily conducts research in ovarian and endometrial cancer, and these two cancers are a leading cause of cancer deaths in women. The research that our lab conducts is important because it can help with prevention, early detection, as well as possibly find a better treatment for endometrial and ovarian cancers.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I started research in Dr. Thiel’s lab right after I graduated from high school. So, I worked with her before my first semester at the University of Iowa.
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Being involved in research has provided me with many opportunities in developing my skills not just in science, but in public speaking, and it has given me the confidence to approach and speak with scientists and physicians of all practices.
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? My career goals and plans after graduation include higher studies through medical school to pursue my dream of becoming a fetal surgeon.
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