Student-assisted cancer research continues on campus
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – This semester, seven students are participating in the University of Wisconsin-Platteville’s Nanotechnology-based Analysis of Cancer through Undergraduate Research Experience (NANOCURE) project. Using previous research from the project, the biology and engineering students will work collectively to investigate how cesium compounds work in treating and fighting cancers. The project is led by Dr. Miranda Bader-Goodman, assistant scientist, and co-principal investigators Dr. Jorge Camacho, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Dr. Marilyn Tufte, professor of biology.
Since the project’s inception in 2015, multiple students have participated in this up-close and hands-on research. This semester’s group includes biology majors Adarsh Sukwal, John Dank and Carley Traverse; engineering-physics majors Bridget White, Benjamin Ambrosini and Andrew Lee; and mechanical engineering major Kolt Bode.
“This research opportunity gives students a completely different environment in which to develop their skills,” Bader-Goodman said. “They’re working on discovery-based, frontier research that may not be a part of traditional, in-class work activity.”
Last year, eight student researchers began fabrication and integration of a microfluidic device that can electrochemically separate single cells and measure their local pH, as well as a specialized Raman spectroscope that analyzes biochemical changes occurring within live cells in real-time. Work with both devices will continue this semester, as well as additional investigation of normal and cancerous human colorectal cells using cesium and vitamin A treatments.
Stemming from research done by Tufte and biophysicist Dr. A. Keith Brewer, Bader-Goodman and UW-Platteville students Bridget White and Katie Shulteis ’17, completed a preliminary study of cells treated with various concentrations of cesium last semester. This summer, Bader-Goodman began research using vitamin A. The semester’s research will use a combination of cesium, vitamin A and zinc gluconate to correspond with Tufte and Brewer’s previous work.
“Because effective concentrations in vivo are not the same as those in vitro, and there’s really no direct correlation or ratio we can use to scale it down, we have to assess each compound individually and find an optimal concentration,” Bader-Goodman explained. “This is something we have to do for all three compounds separately and then start combining them to find the optimum of all three together as a single treatment.”
In addition to working with vitamin A, Bader-Goodman hopes that this semester’s work with the Raman will result in transmission of an appropriate and detectable signal through a microscope. She also hopes that student researchers can fine-tune creation of channels in the microfluidic device to transport microliter amounts of fluid and cells throughout in a controlled manner. Camacho will be bringing some of the microfluidics-based work into one of his engineering classes, allowing even more students to participate in this important, hands-on research.
“Working with a small group like this is great because we are able to tailor our knowledge and teaching to each individual student,” Bader-Goodman said. “An experience like this helps them feel more comfortable stepping outside of their comfort zones and transition into a more professional environment.”
Although this multidisciplinary type of research has allowed students to gain a broader range of hands-on experience in biology, chemistry and engineering, the positive results haven’t only been found in the laboratory. Not only have students strengthened their research abilities from participating in the project, but Bader-Goodman has noted significant improvements in their communication skills, public speaking abilities, email etiquette and all-around professional development.
“It’s amazing to see the changes in the way that the students carry themselves,” she said. “I think this research collaboration has helped them gain the confidence and responsibility that they will need to excel in the real world.”
For more information about UW-Platteville’s NANOCURE project, visit www.uwplatt.edu/ems/nanocure-research.
Written by: Amanda Bertolozzi, Writer/Editor, Communications, 608-342-7121, firstname.lastname@example.org