Student Spotlight: Daniel Kwesi Sam

Headshot of Daniel SamHometown:

Takoradi, Ghana

Year entered CMB program:



Beth Weaver Lab


Brief Summary of Research:

The Weaver lab studies chromosomal mis-segregation events which often lead to chromosomal instability (CIN). We recently identified that Mad1, a mitotic checkpoint protein is involved in integrin trafficking. My research evolves around understanding the molecular mechanisms and cellular significance of Mad1’s role in integrin trafficking.

Awards and Publications:

Maddi K, Sam DK, Bonn F, Prgomet S, Tulowetzke E, Akutsu M, Lopez-Mosqueda J, Dikic I. Wss1 Promotes Replication Stress Tolerance by Degrading Histones. Cell Rep. 2020 Mar 3;30(9):3117-3126.e4

Opoku-Okrah C, Sam DK, Nkum B, Dogbe EE, Antwi-Boateng L, Sackey B, Gyamfi D, Danquah KO. Sports anaemia and anthropometric evaluation of footballers at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Pan Afr Med J. 2016 May 9;24:25

Why did you decide to attend graduate school?

I had my professional training in clinical laboratory science in college back in Ghana. After a few years of working, my job became more monotonous even though I was contributing to patient success. The only part of my job I couldn’t suppress was seeing some interesting cases, which came out as potential research inquiries. I therefore decided to pursue graduate school to train to become a good scientist. Pursuing a PhD degree has been very fulfilling.

Why did you choose UW-Madison’s CMB Program?

The CMB program was very outstanding of all the PhD programs I interviewed with. I was very enthused by how much current students were involved and actively participating in recruitment events. Overall I felt very welcome during my interview weekend.

What inspired you to go into your field of study?

I was initially interested in translational medicine, however I ended up in a DNA repair lab for my masters. As a spin off from that, I decided to settle my PhD interest on how DNA damage contributes to cancer progression.

What is the best conference/seminar you have ever attended? Why?

ASCB 2019 held in Washington D.C was the best I have attended so far. I was proud about communicating my research on a broader scale. I valued the feedback from my audience and had the chance to engage with other people. It was very surprising that one of the professors I interacted with came to my poster unbeknownst to me that she was on the admissions committee of a graduate program I had applied to.

What lessons have you learned throughout your graduate career so far?

Graduate school begun as a masters student at South Dakota. As the only graduate student at the time in my lab, I would make mistakes but fail to own them up: consequently my project was not progressing. I begun to realize and own up my mistakes and ask for help. One of the greatest lessons I have learned in graduate school is to seek help when you need it. Be inquisitive (scientifically) and take ownership of your research. Also, yearn to improve the skill you don’t have and build new relationships.

What advice would you give to a student applying to graduate school?

There are many graduate schools but remember to seek graduate programs that have the interest and success of the student at heart. Ask about academic and non-academic development tools that are available and pay attention to a community you can stay for a long haul. Feel free to email current graduate students about questions you may have. Graduate coordinators are usually very helpful in providing up to date information about a specific program.

What advice would you give to a graduate student in the middle of their graduate school career?

A scientific breakthrough may not come smoothly. However breathtaking it takes, stay positive, build relationships and be perseverant.

What advice would you give to a graduate student who is getting ready to graduate?

Find the environment you will grow best and stick with it. Working in academia or industry both require making a positive impact so look at the big picture wherever you end up.

What are your long-term career goals?

I wish to mentor more African youth to pursue science. Translationally, I would love to contribute to the science behind some of the drugs patients take by working in the pharmaceutical research industry.

What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with it?

One of the biggest challenges we face is the lack of supportive mentors. Science requires lots of ‘figuring out’ and troubleshooting. When experiments don’t work, we need encouragement. Secondly, as a minority in a world class research facility, it is easy to consider oneself as inferior. I have readily inspired myself to overcome imposter barriers by realizing that my research is equally important. I overcome my fears by engaging with people and seeking for help when needed.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

I am a self-taught violinist and got married to a violinist. Often, people ask if we learned to play together. I tell them; we were miles apart across the world 🙂

When you are not in the lab, you are…….?

Biking around Madison; exploring new bike trails. I enjoy meal prepping with my wife, Lydia. We usually have fun playing music together.

What is your favorite memory so far in the CMB Program?

The CMB recruitment weekend.

What is the most fun part of your research?

Cloning a plasmid can be arduous especially when they don’t work. I celebrate successful cloning with huge beams of smile and a sense of fulfillment. Secondly, seeing fluorescently-tagged proteins under the microscope is fun.