MSU junior places second in national cancer research contest
Minot State University biology student Aileen Aldrich, a junior, placed second in the undergraduate research competition at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, April 12-16 in San Diego.
Aldrich presented a poster titled "Analysis of protein binding in the Myeloid Lymphoid Leukemia gene translocation breakpoint cluster region," highlighting leukemia research that she and senior Alysa Anderson have been working on with biology professor Heidi Super.
Aldrich’s trip to the ACCR annual meeting was paid for because she received the Thomas J. Bardos Science Education Award for Undergraduate Students in January. Intended to inspire young science students to enter to the field of cancer research, the award is given to juniors and provides funding for them to attend the AACR annual meeting as a junior and a senior.
Leukemia is caused by "chromosomal translocation," when DNA breaks in at least two spots, switches places and then fuses again in the wrong sports. Where the break happens differs depending on what type of leukemia it is. Aldrich and Anderson have been researching where breaks have occurred in the Meloid-Lymphoid Leukemia gene on Chomosone 11 to better determine how proteins binding in this region might cause the translocations associated with leukemia. The research will take many years, but it might eventually lead to scientists finding out why the break happens in the first place.
"It’s the best part of my undergrad career," Aldrich said, adding that the MSU science department puts a great emphasis on involving undergraduate students in research. She has been working with Super on the research since she was a freshman, and Anderson has been doing the same since she was a sophomore. Anderson also attended the ACCR meeting.
The ACCR annual meeting is the largest gathering of cancer researcher scientists in the world. Super said the benefits are many for students to attend. They hear lectures on the very latest discoveries in cancer development and treatment, meet students from around the globe, and see how the process of science culminates in sharing discoveries.
"At this meeting Alysa and I heard an amazing lecture given by the discoverer of the genetic code and RNA, who is now 80-plus years old," said Super. "Alysa had read about him in textbooks, then realized he is still discovering new things!"
Both students are from Minot and want to attend medical school. They are making presentations at the North Dakota Academy of Science this week in Grand Forks.