Leicester student explores cancer research at retreat
GENESEO — Seven SUNY Geneseo students involved in undergraduate research at the college had the opportunity to attend the recent Roswell Park Cancer Institute Science Retreat on the Geneseo campus, where they heard presentations by RPCI scientists involved in cutting-edge research.
It’s the second year Geneseo has hosted the academic conference, which brings more than 200 cancer researchers to campus, including clinicians, scientists, residents, students and post-doctoral researchers.
Geneseo students attending the conference were Leanne Chen, a senior biology major from Leicester; Travis Dominguez, a senior biochemistry major from Delhi; Fangyuan Jin, a senior biology major from Zhejiang Province, China; Alexa Mandarano, a senior biochemistry major from Spencerport; Maydelis Minaya, a freshman from New York City; Nicolas Peterson, a recent Geneseo biochemistry graduate from Brooklyn; and Erika Valentine, a senior biochemistry major from Hastings.
“It’s amazing to see the progress that has been made in cancer research and how the work of these researchers is affecting our world,” said Chen, the daughter of Angela and Hui Chen of Leicester.
“As I was listening to the presentations, I realized that the caliber of work they are doing in their labs could make headlines the next day. I never envisioned having the opportunity to take advantage of these kind of research experiences when I started here as a freshman,” said Chen, a senior biology major at Geneseo.
Chen, a 2010 graduate of York Central School, is working on campus this summer as a research assistant for Kevin Militello, associate professor of biology at Geneseo. Also working with Militello are Mandarano and Valentine. They are working to identify the genetic functions in the parasite that causes human African trypanosomiasis, also known as “sleeping sickness.” The disease occurs only in 36 sub-Saharan African countries and if untreated can be fatal.
Jin conducted research under the supervision of Robert O’Donnell, distinguished teaching professor of biology at Geneseo, and Doninguez did the same with Jani Lewis, associate professor of biology. Minaya was a student in a recent class O’Donnell taught.
“I’ve been lucky to have the research opportunities here at Geneseo that likely wouldn’t have been available at a bigger university,” said Mandarano, who is planning on attending graduate school after graduating next year with an eye on becoming a research scientist. She also has attended other academic research conferences as a Geneseo student.
About 900 Geneseo students are involved in undergraduate research projects at Geneseo during the year and many present their findings at academic conferences or serve as co-authors of papers accepted for publication.
“Having access to an academic conference where some of the latest cancer research is presented is a tremendous opportunity for our students involved in undergraduate research to get insight into what they might experience someday as research scientists,” said O’Donnell, whose own research focuses on cancer. “Many students in our biology classes have aspirations of going on to graduate school and professional school and the Roswell Park event was a wonderful opportunity to see topics they learned in classes at Geneseo being applied to the study and treatment of cancer.”
Roswell Park Cancer Institute is a comprehensive cancer center in Buffalo, with academic affiliations with the state University at Buffalo and the University of Rochester. The institute attracted major research grants and contracts totaling more than $81 million this year and had more than 650 clinical trials in cancer research last year alone.