2019 WVU Cancer Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Interns

Five students who participated in summer research experience in 2019.

(pictured): Catherine VanMeter, Sara Sredy, Sloan Nesbit, Alan Mizener, Joshua Taylor

This year the WVU Cancer Institute teamed with the WVU Eye Institute to host a Summer Symposium for its Summer Undergraduate Research Programs.  The symposium is the culmination of the students work over the 10 weeks they have spent in labs across the two institutes. 

The highly competitive Summer Research Fellowship Program at the Cancer Institute provides funding and opportunities for undergraduate students who want to pursue careers in cancer research or medicine. Students receive a $4,000 stipend and are paired with a WVU cancer scientist for a 10-week research project.

Catherine VanMeter: 

Q: Who did you meet and work with over the summer?

A: I continued my research in Dr. David Klinke's lab working with his team of undergraduate researchers and post-docs. Collaboration with this team was very beneficial, and the interactions with Dr. Ivanov and the other interns fostered a great learning environment that introduced us to a full-time research experience.

Q: What was your project about?

A: My project involved creating a knockdown of the WISP1a/WISP1b genes in zebrafish using translation-blocking antisense morpholinos. The ultimate goal of the project is to determine which gene in zebrafish is the ortholog to human WISP1, so we can gain an understanding of how expression of this gene works to promote metastasis of melanoma.

Q: What is one thing you learned that will help you with your next step in your studies or this research?

Working full-time in the lab taught me a lot about problem-solving and trouble shooting. Dr. Klinke's lab has always offered a lot of independence, so a lot of our learning comes from our own experiences. During the semester, time constraints hindered experiences that are important for research; however, spending all my time in lab this summer allowed me the time to do the important reading, try new methods, create my own projects, and, most importantly, to figure out what went wrong (or what went right) in an experiment. This opportunity has greatly enhanced my skills as an undergraduate researcher and student

Sara Sredy:

Q: Why did you select this summer experience?

A: I was interested in continuing research that I started earlier with a lab in the Cancer Institute. I found that I was able work in a familiar lab and receive compensation for completing a research project.

Q: What was your project about?

A: My project was about the effect of N-cadherin expression on yH2.AX activation in glioblastoma tumors.

Q: What did you find out?

A: I found that increased N-Cadherin expression results in less activated yH2.AX which shows that these cells may be better able to repair their DNA damage after irradiation. 

Q: Who did you meet and work with over the summer?

A: I worked with Dr. Steven Frisch and his graduate student Ian Macfawn

Sloan Nesbit:

Q: What was your project about?

A: Characterizing drug-resistant leukemia cells to understand how to best go about treating them and re-sensitizing them to the standard of care chemotherapy

Alan Mizener:

Q: What was your project about?

A: My project investigated the use of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) nanoparticles as a delivery vehicle

Q: What did you find out?

A: We found that PLGA nanoparticles appear to be an effective delivery vehicle for potentially toxic therapeutic peptides because they are capable of delivering a low, systemic dose over a period of up to 14 days.

Q: Who did you meet and work with over the summer?

A: Dr. Brock Lindsey Justin Markel Ryan Lacinski Dr. Amanda Stewart Jenna Allen Dr. Alexey Ivanov

Q: What is one thing you learned that will help you with your next step in your studies or this research?

A: Research is difficult, but if you stick with it you can get some really impactful results

Joshua Taylor:

Q: What was your project about?

A: My project focused on the underlying molecular pathways that drive Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma Invasion. The particular aspect I focused on was the molecule cortactin and the role it serves as the main stabilizer of the invasion complex in this cancer.

Q: What did you find out?

A: I found that the complete knockout of cortactin is not sufficient to limit the invasive phenotype, hinting at the existence of a compensatory mechanism that I then focused on. I was able to identify the potential compensation molecule, but was unable to fully investigate it's role.

Q: What is one thing you learned that will help you with your next step in your studies or this research?

A: I learned to deal with setbacks and to not let them deal me too much. The ability to bounce back and keep on moving along is invaluable and something I will always use going forward.

Financial support for the fellowship program comes from the Edwin C. Spurlock Fellowship Fund, the Edward L. Reed Cancer Research Endowment, the Dr. David B. McClung Cancer Research Endowment Fund, and the Joe Marconi Cancer Research Fellowship Endowment.

 

Joshua Taylar and Alexey Ivanov stand in front of Josh's poster with his summer program certificate of completionsJoshua Taylor receives a certificate from Dr. Alexey Ivanov at the conclusion of the summer undergraduate research experience at WVU Cancer Institute.

 

Summer students on a hanging rope bridge in harnesses and helmets for canopy tour.
Summer students experience the WVU Research Forest canopy tour as part of the summer undergraduate program.