Franklin & Marshall’s weekly online newsletter
Students Conduct Translational Research at Penn
Dominick DeGrazio ’12 and Kristen Lancaster ’13 are participating in the CTSA internship program at the University of Pennsylvania this summer.
Dominick DeGrazio ’12 and Kristen Lancaster ’13 have received summer undergraduate internships in the Clinical and Translational Sciences (CTSA) at the University of Pennsylvania, marking the third consecutive year F&M students have participated in the program.
The CTSA internships, launched in 2006 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), allow students to work on clinical and translational approaches to understanding diseases and developing therapeutic responses. DeGrazio and Lancaster are conducting research with mentors at Penn, addressing specific questions based on current insights relevant to diseases and therapy. The internships also include a seminar series highlighting methodologies in translational research.
DeGrazio, a double major in neuroscience and biochemistry and molecular biology, is working under the direction of Xiaolu Yang, professor of cancer biology at Penn. It is the perfect summer internship for DeGrazio, whose goal is to become a cancer research scientist.
“I’m getting experience in a field that’s cutting edge, and is exactly what I want to do in the future,” DeGrazio says. “The research experience is great, because I didn’t have much when I got here.”
DeGrazio is exploring cancer metabolism, specifically the interactions between the DAXX protein and other proteins relating to tumor genesis. He has learned the value of repeating experiments, some of which he and his fellow researchers are performing for the first time. “It’s been interesting to see how detailed and precise the experiments must be,” he says. “In school, most experiments are planned out and will most likely work. But because this is the first time we’re doing these experiments, I’m learning how to cope with failure.”
Lancaster learned about the internship from Phyllis Leber, the Dr. E. Paul and Frances H. Reiff Professor of Chemistry. She also heard positive feedback about the program from last year’s participants, Nicole Lock ’13 and Will Hancock-Cerutti ’12. A biology major and music minor, Lancaster says the program is providing her with valuable research experience.
“I’m interested in finding that interface between the bench and the bedside,” Lancaster says. “I’m learning what goes into drug development. You don’t always realize that it sometimes takes 25 years to bring a drug to the market.”
Lancaster is researching the function of micro RNAs in embryonic and postnatal skin. She is working with Professor Sara Millar, director of research in the Department of Dermatology at Penn. “I’m discovering all the little things that go into research,” Lancaster says. “I’ve been able to apply techniques I learned at F&M, and I’ve also been learning about cell culture, transformation and transfection. I’ll come back to F&M with an extra bit of confidence.”
In addition to DeGrazio and Lancaster, the CTSA program at Penn includes students from Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, Lincoln University, Swarthmore College and Penn.