Ronnie LaCombe

Graduate Student, Division of Biological Sciences

I’m a Missouri native, born and raised in Lee’s Summit, a Kansas City suburb. My educational career has kept me in Missouri – I received my B.S. in Biology from Truman State University, and am now a PhD candidate in Biological Sciences at Mizzou! After graduate school, I’m striving to establish a career in science communication. My graduate research focuses on communication on a different scale: cell-to-cell communication in cancer cells! Most of my research is done in plastic dishes and with microscopes. The protein I study usually sits on the surface of healthy cells, allowing it to communicate with adjacent cells – it’s kind of like the cells are giving each other a handshake. In the cancer I’m studying, the protein is no longer at the surface! It is unable to perform its usual role of cell-to-cell communication, so I’m trying to figure out if it’s doing something new in cancer cells. If we can solve the mystery, we might be able to find a way to prevent it from helping the cancer, potentially leading to development of a new therapy! Outside of research, I’m really interested in science communication. I currently write a weekly column for the Columbia Tribune called Ask A Scientist, where I answer science questions from elementary school students, usually in 5thgrade. In addition to this column, I write a blog called Adventures of a Catholic Scientist, where I write about my experience as a graduate student who is also catholic! You can find that blog at I have a Twitter account associated with this blog as well, @catholicsci, where you can tweet questions to me if you are curious about how I am a religious scientist!

Connect with Science on Wheels: