January 5, 2022

Cancer Research Lands Undergraduate Students Invitation to National Conference

PBA News

Three Palm Beach Atlantic students have earned an invitation to a national research conference to present their work studying the cancer-fighting potential of oregano.

Allison Cool, Amanda Calderon and Annie Hernandez will present “Anti-Cancer Properties Association to Thymol: A Plant-Derived Bioactive Molecule” at the National Council on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) conference in April.

The conference is a highly recognized annual interdisciplinary conference that provides a stage for undergraduate students to share with the world their talents and advancements. This marks the first time PBA students will present at the conference.

Amanda Calderon joined the cancer research project after her uncle survived a diagnosis of stage 4 stomach cancer.

For Amanda Calderon, the recognition holds both personal and professional significance. She reached out to her professors upon learning of her uncle’s diagnosis with stage 4 stomach cancer, and they helped her understand his condition in detail, she said. After her uncle overcame cancer, she took the course Biology of Cancer. Soon after, Dr. Chris Hickey, assistant professor of biology, offered her the opportunity to work in the lab.

Trials the research team faced paved the way for their success, Calderon said.

“This honor has shown me that our hard work and dedication have not gone unnoticed,” she said.

Her fellow undergraduate researcher Cool said, “It is truly a wonderful feeling to be a part of something so much bigger than myself.”

Allison Cool said it’s rewarding to be recognized for the many hours she and her peers spent in the lab.

“After working so many hours in the lab, it is rewarding to see my contribution to cancer research being recognized while bringing attention to Palm Beach Atlantic University,” Cool said.

Hernandez views the conference presentation as an opportunity to represent PBA — and the Lord — in front of the national scientific community. The platform will allow the students to demonstrate that Christianity and science can be “impactfully connected,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez transferred to PBA from a large state university because she desired more personal connections with her mentors and a more faith-based learning experience, she said.

“From the moment I first stepped on this campus, I could tell that I wouldn’t be just a number,” Hernandez said. “The professors here genuinely care about their students and invest in them, and that authentic concern for my education is what opened me up to learn as much as possible from them. Ultimately, that led to the chance to join this research team.”

Annie Hernandez, who transferred to PBA, said her professors’ genuine care for students and their education led her to the research team.

The students work in the lab of Hickey and Dr. Cidya Grant, associate professor of chemistry. Hickey said the researchers have discovered that bioactive molecules in oregano actively target ovarian cancer cells and leukemia cells, resulting in cell death. The same molecules do not target the healthy cells, signaling a promising development in the fight against cancer, he said.

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