Students Explore Nanomedicine Research on CaNCURE Co-ops

Students Explore Nanomedicine Research on CaNCURE Co-ops

Date: 06/23/2015

In August 2014 we announced an exciting new cancer nanomed­i­cine research co-op pro­gram called CaN­CURE, which gives scores of North­eastern stu­dents the oppor­tu­nity to work in cutting-edge lab­o­ra­to­ries at the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and North­eastern in the area of cancer nanomed­i­cine. This month, the program’s first cohort of stu­dents will wrap up their co-ops, expe­ri­ences that they say have been nothing short of career-defining.

All 15 of the under­grad­u­ates in the pro­gram, which is funded by the National Cancer Insti­tute, recently gave pre­sen­ta­tions on their work. Chem­ical engi­neering major Jordan Harris, E’17, noted that a pre­vious co-op at Selecta Bio­sciences Inc., a clinical-stage biotech­nology com­pany in Water­town, Mass­a­chu­setts, piqued his interest in nanomed­i­cine, which he fur­ther inves­ti­gated through his lab-based CaN­CURE co-op. He worked at Brigham and Women’s Hos­pital in Boston, where he con­tributed to a project involving engi­neered nanopar­ti­cles that target prostate cancer cells.

The nanofield is super inno­v­a­tive,” Harris told me, “and I want to be on the brink of new dis­cov­eries. Inte­grating dif­ferent sci­ences together, like biology, chem­istry, physics, and engi­neering, is really inter­esting to me.”

Health sci­ences major Linda Wiinberg’s pre­vious expe­ri­en­tial learning opportunities—an intern­ship at a hos­pital in Sweden and a co-op at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital—mainly focused on the clin­ical side of med­i­cine. Her CaN­CURE co-op was her first foray into nanomedicine.

For the past six months Wiin­berg, BHS’15, has worked in asso­ciate pro­fessor of chem­ical engi­neering Rebecca Carrier’s lab on a project aimed at val­i­dating Carrier’s pre­dic­tive model for how ingested lipids, or fat mol­e­cules, change the way the body absorbs dif­ferent com­pounds. It’s long been known that food diges­tion affects how the body absorbs drugs, but her work seeks to fill knowl­edge gaps around how doc­tors can fine-tune dosages, min­i­mize side effects, and make drug delivery more efficient.

It’s been a really great expe­ri­ence,” Wiin­berg said in a phone inter­view. She noted that her co-op has inspired her to pursue a com­bined MD/PhD pro­gram while affording her the oppor­tu­nity to sharpen her crit­ical thinking lab skills and better under­stand the chem­istry behind her research exper­i­ments. She also said the CaN­CURE program’s pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment work­shops and weekly sem­i­nars on trans­lating research from lab to market have broad­ened her per­spec­tive on a career in research.

Bio­chem­istry major Rachel Fontana, S’17, for her part, worked on co-op at Dana-Farber in a lab run by Mike Mak­ri­giorgos, pro­fessor of radi­a­tion oncology at Har­vard Med­ical School. There she studied the tech­nolo­gies involved in liquid biopsy, which is a means of detecting cancer bio­markers in the blood. Specif­i­cally, her work focused on cir­cu­lating tumor DNA, which is DNA that’s been shed into the bloodstream.

Through this co-op, I wanted to work on an inter­esting project and make progress that could give some­thing back to the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity,” she said. “I was able to achieve that.”

Fontana added that her co-op expe­ri­ence increased her appre­ci­a­tion for the time and ded­i­ca­tion it takes to master a skill in a sci­en­tific lab—in her case, that one thing was poly­merase chain reac­tion, a fast and inex­pen­sive tech­nique that is used to copy small seg­ments of DNA and is some­times called “mol­e­c­ular photocopying.”

The CaN­CURE pro­gram is a part­ner­ship between North­eastern and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, and is sup­ported by a grant from the National Insti­tutes of Health’s National Cancer Insti­tute. The program’s goal is to train the next gen­er­a­tion of cancer nanomed­i­cine sci­en­tists and clin­i­cians through research-based co-ops in leading sci­en­tists’ labs at both institutions.

The stu­dents’ pre­sen­ta­tions, which took place June 15, were part of Northeastern’s first annual Nanomed­i­cine Day. The event fea­tured talks and 40 poster demon­stra­tions by all 15 of the under­grad­u­ates in the CaN­CURE pro­gram; doc­toral stu­dents in the IGERT pro­gram; and other grad­uate stu­dents con­ducting nanomed­i­cine research at Northeastern.

We have a solid base of nanomed­i­cine research and edu­ca­tion here at North­eastern,” said Arts and Sci­ences Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor Srinivas Sridhar, a fac­ulty member in the Depart­ment of Physics and the director of the CaN­CURE and IGERT nanomed­i­cine programs.

Seven more stu­dents will begin their CaN­CURE co-ops in July, and in Sep­tember appli­ca­tions will be posted for the January-June 2016 co-op cycle.

Source: news at northeastern