Bree Grillo-Hill

Bree Grillo-Hill with student at microscope

Assistant Professor Bree Grillo-Hill and Harnoor Virk, ’21 Molecular Biology and minor in Chemistry, examine slides of whole mount dissected fly tissues expressing fluorescent proteins that indicate whether cells are actively dividing using an inverted live-cell imaging microscope that they built from components at SJSU.

Impacts of intracellular pH on cancer cell behaviors

Bree Grillo-Hill’s research characterizes and identifies pH sensors that mediate cancer cell behaviors. She has designed tools that measure and alter acid levels inside cells – a first in the field development – which allow her to better understand diseases and how they progress. 

“Cells generate acids as a normal consequence of metabolism and other biochemical activities,” she explains. “In diseases including cancer, cells cannot properly regulate their acid levels, and acid levels are subsequently reduced. This in turn causes proteins to function abnormally, which makes the cells behave differently, contributing to disease progression.”

Grillo-Hill’s students are active in her lab and fully engaged in research. In fact, they have presented their research at the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science Conference, the Annual Drosophila Research Conference, the California State University Annual Biotechnology Symposium, and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students.

Several of Grillo-Hill’s students have gone on to pursue graduate and medical degrees, including at top-ranked programs like UC San Francisco. Others have taken positions at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Beckman Coulter, and at the California Department of Justice Jan Bashinski DNA Laboratory, as well as in academic labs at UC San Francisco and the University of Pennsylvania.

Grillo-Hill considers her students’ hands-on research experiences successful, “even if they don’t continue to work as a bench scientist,” she says. “They learn collaboration and critical thinking skills in research that will benefit them in whatever path they choose after graduation.”

"Guidance and mentorship from my professor have opened career doors that I would never have known about."

Harnoor Virk
’21 Molecular Biology and minor in Chemistry

SJSU Research Foundation 2020 Annual Report