May 06, 2013

Nancy Solomon

Grant Expands Research Opportunities for SLU Undergrads

ST. LOUIS -- A $148,300 grant from the DeNardo Education and Research Foundation will fund scholarships for undergraduate students to conduct cancer research with Saint Louis University's clinical laboratory science faculty and help underwrite a health science lecture series to share their findings.

This clinical lab science student is transferring bacteria to a culture plate.

The competitive scholarships -- $10,000 to each of 10 SLU students -- will stimulate interest in undergraduate research and will allow the department to select students more likely to succeed thus fostering a culture of research, says Tim R. Randolph, Ph.D., chair of clinical lab science at SLU's Doisy College of Health Sciences. 

"The grant will increase student interest in science by providing research experiences for more students and exposing them to highly successful scientists through the lectureship," Randolph said. "In addition, having more students involved in research will allow faculty to expand their pre-clinical cancer research and increase the likelihood of other grant awards, which will then allow for even more student participation in research."

The grant will underwrite stipends to students and fund the purchase of supplies for research that focuses on pre-clinical cancer biology, diagnosis and therapy. In addition, the scholarships will pay for students to travel to out-of-town conferences to present their findings.

The grant will also fund a health science research symposium and lectureship, which will showcase the students' research results and give them the chance to meet an invited high profile guest scientist, whom they will choose.

"Having an invited research scientist of national or international fame discuss results of each student's research in a one-on-one communication will have a profound impact on the student. This opportunity will create lifetime memories for the students as well as maintain their interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related careers," says Rita M. Heuertz, Ph.D., professor of clinical lab science.

Students will work in the labs of three clinical laboratory science faculty members who study cancer:

  • Uthayashanker Ezekiel, Ph.D., assistant professor and grant principal investigator, studies how phytochemicals from fruits, vegetables, grains, spices and herbs can prevent and treat cancer.
  • Rita Heuertz, Ph.D., professor, researches bacterial biofilms, which are a colony of microorganisms that stick together on a surface, function as a unit and disperse to distant sites, as a model to study the progression of cancer.
  • Tim R. Randolph, Ph.D., associate professor, is developing precise, simple and low-cost test methods designed for resource-poor countries to diagnose diseases that include blood cancers and sickle cell.

"I have been working with undergraduate research students since 1994. Many have received recognition at SLU and awards from state and national professional organizations under the mentorship of clinical lab science faculty. They have made real contributions -- presenting at undergraduate research symposia and being part of a team that has advanced the understanding of a variety of health-related issues to include bacterial biofilm biology, cancer research, and development of diagnostic tests now being considered for patents, to name a few," Randolph said.

"The generous grant from the DeNardo Education and Research Foundation will allow us to extend these opportunities to more students, whose research ultimately could benefit many."

Long a leader in educating health professionals, Saint Louis University offered its first degree in an allied health profession in 1929. Today the Doisy College of Health Sciences offers degrees in physical therapy, athletic training education, clinical laboratory science, nutrition and dietetics, health informatics and information management, health sciences, medical imaging and radiation therapeutics, occupational science and occupational therapy, and physician assistant education. The college's unique curriculum prepares students to work with health professionals from all disciplines to ensure the best possible patient care.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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