Jennifer Cambre: 33, Chemistry
It was her love of polymer chemistry that drew Jennifer Cambre to Dr. Brent Sumerlin’s research program. Cambre, who is working toward her PhD in chemistry, has long been interested in the use of polymers (long-chained molecules composed of individual units) to deliver medications and other therapeutics in treating patients, and the research she is able to do as a member of Dr. Sumerlin’s team falls squarely into that category.
The team is working to determine whether tiny polymer particles can be triggered to come apart in response to a chemical stimulus. If so, it could result in an automatic treatment for diabetes -- a kind of “smart insulin.” One of the biggest problems with controlling diabetes is patient compliance, such as checking blood sugar levels and administering insulin shots when needed, according to Cambre, who has Type I diabetes. “If treatment was accessible and easier, you would hope to see better compliance,” she said.
She uses the example of a truffle to explain how smart insulin might work. “A chocolate truffle with the filling inside is a ball of chocolate, but when you put it in your mouth the heat of your mouth melts (the outside) and you get to the filling,” she said.
Similarly, the insulin serves as the filling inside an aggregate (of polymers). In response to dangerous levels of glucose in the bloodstream, the aggregate would fall apart and the payload inside would be released. Cambre is in the fourth year of the PhD program and expects to graduate in May, 2011. The 33-year-old mother of two grew up in Plano. She earned a Bachelor of Science at SMU in biochemistry in 1999. She returned to SMU and completed her Master of Science in chemistry in 2003 under Dr. Patty Wisian-Neilson.
Cambre then took a break from the world of academia to spend some time at home and to give birth to her first son, who is now 6 years old. She and her husband also have a 1-year-old son.