As many of their peers put away their pens, brought back their books, packed up their cars and headed home for the summer, two St. Bonaventure University biology students began their 10-week stint as the 2008 Borer Summer Research Scholars.
On May 12, soon-to-be juniors Tommy Zaikos and Allison Gould undertook their respective research projects under the advisement of two university biology professors.
Zaikos, of Toronto, Ontario, will focus on determining the specific binding site of a monoclonal antibody that causes platelet activation. Platelets are the blood cells responsible for the clotting of blood; decreased platelet concentration causes excessive bleeding and inappropriate platelet activation can lead to strokes. Insights into the mechanisms of platelet activation could lead to better drugs for treating and preventing these types of ailments.
“I am very excited to be a part of the research field and experience, and to know, first-hand, how research is conducted in a practical and professional sense. Moreover, I look forward to working in our brand new laboratories in the new Walsh science building,” said Zaikos, son of Jim and Mary Zaikos.
Zaikos, who maintains a 4.0 GPA, is under the direction of Dr. John Kupinski, associate professor of biology.
Gould, of Nazareth, Pa., will be studying embryonic mammary gland development, specifically how parathyroid hormone related protein (PTHrP) regulates the transcription factors LEF1 and MSX2. PTHrP is a key protein involved in the formation of the mammary gland and also has been associated with breast cancer. Understanding the function of PTHrP and how it regulates these molecules may facilitate a better understanding of the role of PTHrP during mammary development and cancer, and potentially provide new drug targets for treating cancer.
According to Gould, this study is important to “find out what is necessary for development, because then we may be able to determine that cells lacking these specific proteins can cause developmental failure … Mutations in genes that code for these specific proteins could be an underlying cause in breast cancer development,” said Gould, daughter of Robert and Lois Gould.
Gould, who maintains a 3.963 GPA, will study under the direction of Dr. Julie Hens, assistant professor of biology. Hens is hoping for results that could potentially lead to publications as well as obtaining preliminary data for grants.
“I have had [Allison] for two courses, and she has shown a lot of promise in understanding the molecular mechanisms in development and seems to have a good grasp on techniques used in this type of research, which will help her if she decides to do research when she becomes an M.D.,” Hens said.
“Personally, I am looking forward to gaining more experience in the laboratory setting; specifically, developing my techniques through a hands-on approach to theories learned in the classroom,” Gould explained.
Both Zaikos and Gould will continue their education at medical school. They have been accepted to the George Washington University Medical Center Early Assurance Program.
The Dr. Arnold T. Borer Summer Fellowship Program was made possible in 1992 through a major gift to the University by Gertrude Borer and her son, Francis “Frank” E. Borer, ’69. The fund was established in honor of her late husband, Arnold. Borer Fellows are chosen because they have achieved the highest science and math GPAs and have a potential interest in biomedical research.