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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

Minnesota Assistant Professor Named to List of Emerging Mass Spectrometry Investigators

University of Minnesota School of Public Health Assistant Professor Dr. Silvia Balbo has been named to a list of emerging investigators by the American Society of Mass Spectrometry for her work searching for the causes of cancer rooted in human DNA.

[Photo: Dr. Silvia Balbo]

“It’s an honor to be recognized and it means we are going in the right direction,” said Dr. Balbo.

Dr. Balbo uses mass spectrometry, a technique for analyzing the chemical composition of things, to understand changes to human DNA triggered by environmental exposures or behaviors.

“We use high-resolution mass spectrometry to characterize DNA damage and to understand how various exposures — including environmental, dietary, and lifestyle factors — may interact with DNA and generate chemical modifications that could ultimately lead to mutations,” said Dr. Balbo.

For Dr. Balbo, the complexities of the research and the potential to help prevent future cancer cases drives her to use mass spectrometry in new ways.

“I love challenges and the idea of pushing the limits of the instruments we are using to perform analysis only a few other labs in the world are doing,” said Dr. Balbo. “The results from this work may lead to a better understanding of how exposures may result in the development of cancer, which could help us to find ways to prevent these events from happening in the first place.”

The list of emerging investigators included 14 scientists, of which only two were women — a number Dr. Balbo hopes to help improve. “My goal for the future is to support and train more women in this field to eliminate this imbalance.”