VOLUME 20 #2

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Students find research a rewarding activity

Michelle Francis presenting her poster
Michelle Francis

RESEARCH | You could hear the excitement in Michelle Francis' voice as the UD senior described her research to crosslink snake venom protein to melanoma cells.

The viper venom has been shown to halt cells of melanoma, a particularly aggressive skin cancer, from metastasizing, or spreading. Peptides called disintegrins in the venom appear to block cancer cell migration, and Francis is working to find out how that happens, as a member of the research team of Mary Ann McLane, professor of medical technology.

Francis plans to work as a medical technologist and then either continue on to graduate school in pharmacology or attend medical school. "I'd like to work for a year first," she says. "It's behind-the-scenes detective work—I really like it."

Francis was one of about 90 undergraduates who presented posters on their research projects this spring. Such hands-on research opportunities propel students on paths to future careers and sometimes even to new fields of science.

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Matthew Saponaro, a senior majoring in computer and information sciences, had been encouraged to attend medical school but says he can't stand the sight of blood. Instead, he combined his knowledge and skills in physics, biology and statistical analysis to develop computer simulations of colon cancer and couple those simulations with probability theory.

"By simulating a cancerous colon, we may eventually be able to predict and prevent colon cancer," he says. "I think this kind of software development is really awesome."

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