The National Institute of General Medical Sciences – part of the National Institutes of Health – has awarded a $120,000 grant to Presbyterian College and the Medical University of South Carolina for collaborative biomedical research.
Dr. Austin Shull, a 2011 graduate of PC, and MUSC colleague Dr. Antonis Kourtidis provide research opportunities for students to study cancer’s effect on cells’ epithelial integrity. The faculty and student researchers investigate what happens inside cells that make them more cancerous and give them the ability to migrate.
A small group of PC students will perform most of the experiments and collect most data with cell lines created at MUSC. Their preliminary work and data helped secure the grant. Present work will continue throughout the academic year and into the summer.
Shull explained that the grant not only supports crucial biomedical research but promotes South Carolina’s efforts to build and train a vital biomedical workforce.
PC is part of a network of seven undergraduate institutions and three research universities – the S.C. IDeA (Institutional Development Award) Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence – that has created a rich environment for collaboration and student research.
“This grant for our research is really good for our department and the College,” said Shull. “It allows me to continue pursuing my research with my students and has helped me become a better teacher just by further developing my expertise as a scientist and as a mentor.”
The grant also provides PC students an opportunity to perform relevant cancer research that advances the fight against the disease. Students like Layne Benson, a senior biology major at PC.
“It’s given me the opportunity to take part in something big,” she said. “It’s crazy to see how my little contribution is working toward a bigger and better project to further biomedical sciences. I have learned so much and, because of these opportunities, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in the field and further my development as a biomedical scientist.”
Shull said students bring a lot to the laboratory and the field of study.
“They are making real contributions to our knowledge of how cancer works,” Shull added. “Their work is part of a greater experiment that is progressing our understanding and the possibility of finding a breakthrough. That may seem small, but it is very important for further advancing science and that is something our students get to be a part of.”