For Allen Sanderlin ’15, cancer research is personal. His family has a history of skin and lung cancers. And when he volunteered at a retirement center in his hometown of Dublin, Ohio, he got to know several residents who had undergone the rigors of cancer treatment.
This summer, Sanderlin made his own contribution to the fight against cancer as one of six Kenyon students conducting research in labs at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. The 10-week research opportunity is part of Kenyon’s partnership with Pelotonia, the annual bike event benefitting cancer research that takes place this year on August 9-11. The ride begins in downtown Columbus and concludes on the Kenyon campus for many riders.
Kenyon students compete for the coveted research slots at Ohio State labs, where they are at the bench alongside faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers, pursuing answers to questions about cells, genes, proteins, and other compounds that make cancer such a challenge.
Sanderlin studied how different kinds of cells regulate a specific gene in a mouse model of breast cancer. “This opportunity exposed me to the dynamics of a large research facility,” he said. “There was a surprising amount of intimacy among lab members, creating a productive yet welcoming environment for research.”
Being trusted to work independently in the lab impressed Johanna Klinman ’15. She studied how different forms of a compound influence the tumor-suppression properties of p53, a protein that she had learned about in her cell biology class at Kenyon.
“My favorite part of the research was learning how to work with mouse embryonic fibroblasts in the tissue culture room and taking complete responsibility over how these cells grew,” said Klinman, who wants to pursue a doctorate in molecular biology and one day teach science at the collegiate level.
The learning extends beyond the lab, added Maureen Tobin, Kenyon’s graduate school and pre-professional advisor. Weekly meetings feature discussions with graduate students about scientific journal articles. Speakers also talk to the Kenyon group about the variety of professional options available in the sciences.
“It’s just a great opportunity for our students to have a broader experience,” Tobin said.
The complete research experience concludes with a presentation of findings at Ohio State’s Biomedical Research Tower—in a large room, on a stage, and followed by a question-and-answer session.
Among those asking the questions is Michael Caligiuri, director of the cancer center and chief executive officer of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
“Kenyon College has kindly opened its campus to Pelotonia riders, and we are thrilled to open our research labs to Kenyon students,” Caligiuri said. “The bright students we have worked with so far are terrific examples of the next generation of scientists who will carry on this important work.”
Rounding out the Kenyon student research team is Grayson Donley ’14, Camelia Milnes ’15, Lillian Spetrino ’15, and Jacob Williams ’14.
So far, the student scientists have raved about the program, said Tobin, who rode in Pelotonia last year. “It’s really a win-win—for Kenyon, for Ohio State, for cancer.”