Undergrad Research: Fighting Cancer on the Frontlines

ENSSELAER, N.Y. (January 21, 2008) - Fraulin Joseph carefully inspects a plate of baker's yeast. He's not looking for strains of growth but rather, for strains that do not grow at all. "Each strain represents a gene," he explains. "If one strain does not grow well, then it's missing an important gene. Without the gene, the yeast is dying. It's the missing gene that is important." Joseph, a junior and biology major from the Bronx, searches for clues on how to make cancer-fighting drugs like Carmustine more effective by understanding the genes which help cancer cells resist them, first in yeast, then in humans. He screens the strains of yeast from among 5,000 available in the gene deletion library. "Fraulin Joseph is a triple threat," said his mentor, Tom Begley, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at the Gen*NY*Sis Center for Excellence in Cancer Genomics. "He is highly intelligent, he has great hands, and is a great person to have in the lab." "[The program gives students] great experience and hands-on work to prepare them for graduate or medical programs." -Tom Begley Joseph was first assigned to work with Begley through the University at Albany Summer Research Program. That experience opened the door to a two-year independent study with Begley. "Imagine going from being a student assigned to help out in a lab to being set up with your own research project," said Joseph, excitement crossing his face. "My mentor showed me the ropes, but I run the experiments and collected the data all on my own. Now I am in the process of writing a real research paper with the possibility of being published." Begley said, "This is a really great opportunity to get young scholars in the lab and put them on biomedically important research projects that not only provide data for grant proposals, but also give qualified students great experience and hands-on work to prepare them for graduate or medical programs."