Undergrad Contributes to Acclaimed Leukemia Publication

Ruben Naoye | Undergraduate | Biology

Contributing to a bigger narrative

Science is more than just data points and big discoveries for senior biology major Ruben Naoye; it’s a narrative that helps us better understand the world. Naoye is making big contributions to these narratives in the lab, at patients’ bedsides and, most recently, to the acclaimed Nature Publishing Group’s journal Leukemia.

Naoye’s talent for research began in high school when his environmental science teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School encouraged him to apply for Project SEED, a research program on IUPUI’s campus that gives high school students a chance to explore research opportunities in science.

During his time in Project SEED, IUPUI School of Science associate professor Kathleen Marrs, Ph.D., helped Naoye make the decision to attend IUPUI.

“When I met Ruben I was impressed with his mature personality, intense curiosity and strong work ethic,” Marrs said. “It’s been exciting to see him excel in research experiences, from studies on organ transplantation, to bone healing drugs, to acute myeloid leukemia.”

Getting the full story

Before attending IUPUI, Naoye volunteered at Wishard Hospital (now Sidney & Lois Eskanazi Hospital) for five years, working in both the Geriatric Department and in Hispanic Health Resources. Initially interested in applying for M.D. programs after undergrad, his work as an undergraduate researcher in Rebecca J. Chan, M.D., Ph.D.’s, hema-oncology lab opened his eyes to a side of medicine he hadn’t yet explored.

“With my experiences in hospitals and research labs I’ve come to appreciate just how much there is to the story of medical science,” Naoye said. “Connecting what I do in the lab with real people in the clinic helped me decide that pursuing an M.D./Ph.D. was the best fit for me.”

Leaving a legacy

After nearly four years, Naoye’s results from analyzing biochemical pathways in Chan’s lab contributed to a publication in Leukemia, a specialty journal of Nature Publishing Group.


“Having Ruben Naoye in the lab over multiple summers was a joy and benefit to my lab,” Chan said. “His enthusiasm, congenial personality, strong work ethic and meticulous record-keeping made Ruben a welcome addition to the lab and paved the way to his co-authorship on our publication in Leukemia. I am heartened to see outstanding students like Ruben aspiring to train as physician-scientists.”

The power of diversity

Growing up in a multicultural family and being involved as a Norman Brown Diversity and Leadership scholar has helped Naoye to adapt to the multifaceted responsibilities and skillsets that M.D./Ph.D. programs require.

“The Norman Brown program encouraged me to learn more about my heritage and other cultures,” Naoye said. “Growing up in a multicultural household, my identity isn’t easily defined by just one culture, which helps me effectively communicate and work with people of all backgrounds in the lab and the hospital.”

During his remaining time in undergrad, Naoye continues to find creative ways of making an impact on the scientific world -- from using Pokémon as a metaphor for describing the process of cell differentiation to impressing medical students with his Spanish-speaking skills in the clinic. Soon he’ll be ready to continue on to the next chapter, beginning an M.D./Ph.D. program.