Intensive Research

HIV, Diabetes, Cancer Treatments Tested by Drew Student Scientists

Drew’s Summer Science Institute supports intensive student research

HIV treatment, diabetes control, cancer cell production, eco-friendly plastic—these are only a few of the student research topics in the 2015 Drew Summer Science Institute (DSSI).

Through this intensive program, which has been going on for more than 15 years, Drew undergraduates work closely with faculty members and senior industrial scientists on real-world research for two months over the summer, supported by a stipend. DSSI is led by Stephen Dunaway, a professor of microbiology.

Victoria Korn C’16, a biology major, is testing Platensimycin, a metabolite, to explore its possible use as an antibiotic or a diabetes treatment. “I hope to do research in the future,” she said. “It’s why I came to Drew—the research opportunities and interaction with the professors. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

“Our students are working with their hands in the lab,” said Dr. Ronald Doll, a senior scientist formerly with Merck and Schering-Plough. “We’re doing drug discovery in the lab the same way we did at Merck.” Doll is a fellow with the Drew Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti (RISE), through which industrial scientists mentor students and guide their research.

Drew Stenger C’17, a biochemistry major, is researching whether glucaric acid could be used to produce eco-friendly polymers to replace petroleum-based ones in plastics. Stenger works closely with Dr. Neal Connors, a microbiologist and RISE Fellow, and his research is supported by a Dean Paolo Cucchi Research Grant.

Stenger, who plans to attend graduate school and become a research scientist, said DSSI students benefit from close relationships and mentoring from their professors, “You learn to work in a team but you have to focus on your own work.”

Tyler Dorrity C’18 is studying the immune response of cells to the HIV virus, working with Brianne Barker, an assistant professor of biology. “Our students work very closely with faculty members and get our undivided attention,” she said. “They solidify their interest in science and the things they want to study.”

DSSI faculty members note that program participants continue their studies at top graduate and medical schools. Recent examples include Robert Scheffler C’14, who is earning a PhD at Princeton University, Maria Falzone C’14, a student at Cornell Medical School, and Nicholas Chiappini, who is working on a PhD at Stanford University.

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