Two undergraduate students in Marshall University College of Science are working in Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program laboratories with funding from one-year NASA Fellowships. Mason Dial, who is majoring in chemistry, is working on examining
interventions to reduce the adverse effects of cisplatin in the lab of Monica Valentovic, PhD. The freshman scientist has worked in the lab since this past summer, and as part of his Fellowship requirements, will present a poster at the Sigma Xi Research Day at the end of the spring semester.
Nicholas Nolan, a sophomore biological sciences student, is working with Piyali Dasgupta, PhD.
Dr. Dasgupta explains: “Cancer cells have the ability to penetrate the extracellular matrix, launch themselves into circulation and travel to distant organs ( a process termed as metastasis). The invasion of cancer cells is a key step of their metastasis. The long-term goal of my laboratory is to identify nutrition-based therapies to combat the invasion of human lung cancers. Our studies show that capsaicin (the spicy component of chili peppers) suppresses the invasion of human lung cancer. However, one of the drawbacks of capsaicin is that it has a pungent flavor and induces stomach cramps, pain and irritation in the gastrointestinal tract. Nick’s project involves investigating the anti-invasive activity of two non-pungent capsaicin-like compounds namely capsiate and capsiaconiate in human lung cancer. Capsiate and capsiconiate are capsaicin-like compounds found in certain varieties of chili peppers. The identification of capsaicin-like compounds that suppress the invasion of human cells could lead to improved treatments for this lethal disease.
Our laboratory has an excellent track record of undergraduate student research. We hope that by providing meaningful research experiences to undergraduates we are training the next generation of cancer-biologists and physician-scientists who will perform outstanding research in the field of cancer.”
Nick is very excited about recieving the NASA Fellowship and states, “My future plans are to become a physician and perform research in the field of cancer biology. My research experience in Dr. Dasgupta’s lab has provided me with several research skills to realize my career goals. Receiving the NASA fellowship has given me the opportunity to continue my work with Lung Cancer; as well as present the results of that work at the Experimental Biology (EB) Conference 2016. The EB conference is a world-renowned science conference, with about 20,000 scientists attending from all over the world. I am excited to interact with my peers, and I look forward to receiving their valuable feedback about my research project.”
Several other MU undergraduate students were awarded the NASA Fellowship to work in other labs on campus:
Amber Kuhn, a senior in biotechnology, is working with Elizabeth Murray, PhD, on the quantification of the mitochondrial DNA contained in human hair shafts.
Amanda White, a senior in biology, is working with Derrick Kolling, PhD, on using directed evolution to increase lipid formation in Chlorella vulgaris for use in biofuels.
Brandon Murdock, junior in biochemistry, is working with John Rakus, PhD, on the investigation of the enzymatic mechanism of the C-Mannosyltransferase DPY-19 L1.
Benjamin Williams, senior in biochemistry, is working with Leslie Frost, PhD, on the differential expression of serum peptides and proteins in septic rats.
Clarissa Schauseil, senior in biomedical sciences, is working with Marty Laubach, PhD, on Appalachian culture and STEM.
Maya Menking-Hoggatt, junior in biological sciences and Spanish language, is working with Nadja Spitzer, PhD on the effects of silver nanoparticles on the wnt pathway in adult neural stem cell differentiation.
Seth Baker, a junior in computer science, is working with William Ford, PhD, on low-cost wireless sensor network monitoring of freshwater bodies.
Zach Jones, a junior in computer science, is also working wiht William Ford, PhD, on the Rapid Response Chemical Concentration Prediction Tool.
For more information on these fellowships, please see: NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium, http://www.wvspacegrant.org/