Summer vacation beckoned, but Palm Beach Atlantic University biology students Ashley Dolberry and Taj Anderson chose instead to work on cancer research in the labs in MacArthur and Gregory halls.
|PBA students Ashley Dolberry, left, and Taj Anderson, center, work in a laboratory in MacArthur Hall under the watchful eye of Dr. Cynthia Toth during the Summer Undergraduate Academic Research Program.|
The students, both biology majors with a concentration in pre-health professional preparation, spent the first six weeks of the summer break working with faculty members Dr. Mireille Aleman and Dr. Cynthia Toth on a project titled “the Effects of Annona glabra (Florida Pond Apple) Extracts on Breast Cancer Cells.”
The students and professors were selected to participate in Summer Undergraduate Academic Research, a pilot program in the School of Arts and Sciences that was designed to give students a chance to work on real-world research.
“We had to go through every step,” said Dolberry, a rising senior who also plays on the University’s women’s basketball team. “We learned the ins and outs of research.”
The students helped their professors conduct experiments on three cell lines: a normal cell line, an estrogen-dependent cancer cell line and an estrogen-independent cancer cell line.
Dr. Aleman, assistant professor of chemistry, said the project will involve a crossover between environmental and molecular biology. She said she hopes to partner with Professor of Biology Dr. Peggy VanArman and her students, who will be collecting pond apple samples for a separate project.
In the fall, Anderson and Dolberry will be able to continue working on the project through their senior research, said Dr. Toth, associate professor of biology.
“It helps students to think outside of the box,” Dr. Toth said. “This is set up to help them think and to become scientists.”
|Dr. Mireille Aleman works with samples during the Summer Undergraduate Academic Research Program.|
Anderson, a native of Abaco in the Bahamas, said he and Dolberry also spent a significant amount of time in the library.
“You have to spend a lot of time outside of the lab before you even get to the lab,” Anderson said.
Working on the project helped Anderson solidify his decision to pursue a doctorate after graduation. He said he now hopes someday to enroll in an M.D.-Ph.D. program and concentrate on immunology.
Dolberry, of Plano, Texas, said she plans to attend dental school after graduation, but she also is beginning to consider the possibility of working toward a doctorate.
Dr. Barton Starr, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said he hopes the project will be expanded next summer if funding is available.
“It’s a dream I have had for several years, to get faculty and students together to do research,” Dr. Starr said.
Faculty members said undergraduate students gain valuable training from this type of intensive research.
“We try to integrate research into the program anyway,” said Dr. Ray Waldner, professor of biology. “These students are doing the kinds of things graduate students would do.”