When the Amer­ican Asso­ci­a­tion for Clin­ical Chem­istry (AACC) holds its annual meeting in late July, third-​​year North­eastern Uni­ver­si­tys­tu­dent Dennis O’Rourke will be there to give two oral pre­sen­ta­tions of abstracts sum­ma­rizing his cancer research, including a poster pre­sen­ta­tion that is rarely deliv­ered by anyone who has yet to earn a doc­toral degree.

The AACC is a really big deal,” said O’Rourke, a biology major. “I’m extremely excited about the research, but it is also a bit intim­i­dating to think about pre­senting in front of some of the country’s top researchers.”

O’Rourke’s research achieve­ments came in the course of his first expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity last July, when he worked as a co-​​op researcher under the tute­lage of Brian Liu, assis­tant pro­fessor of surgery at Har­vard Med­ical School. Liu is also the director of the Trans­la­tional Research in Urology and Gyn-​​Epidemiology Center at Brigham and Women’s Hos­pital in Boston.

Dennis was the first co-​​op stu­dent to work in the center and we are all extremely proud of his accom­plish­ments,” said Liu. “His work in the lab has been invalu­able and his many acknowl­edge­ments from the AACC—especially as an undergraduate—are a huge honor for him as well as our lab.”

O’Rourke’s abstract, “Autoan­ti­body Sina­tures and Immune Com­plexes as Poten­tial Bio­markers in Ovarian Cancer with Low Serum CA-​​125,” was one of five abstracts chosen for oral pre­sen­ta­tion, and also received a National Academy of Clin­ical Bio­chem­istry Dis­tin­guished Abstract Award.

He also was chosen as one of four stu­dents to present during the Stu­dent Oral Pre­sen­ta­tion Con­test. His abstract was reviewed by a panel of judges who rated it on the basis of sci­en­tific value and con­tent, orig­i­nality and quality of writing. Of 50 abstracts, O’Rourke’s received one of four top scores.

Addi­tion­ally, O’Rourke was among the win­ners of the 2010 Stu­dent Travel Grant Award. Most of the other win­ners were post­doc­toral fellows.

Though his co-​​op ended in December, O’Rourke has con­tinued his research at Brigham and Women’s, where he works with ovarian, prostate and breast can­cers. His research looks for spe­cific inter­ac­tions of anti­bodies in patients with cancer and pro­teins asso­ci­ated with known cancer lines. He will resume a full-​​time co-​​op posi­tion in Liu’s lab this July.