Student research raises hope for future

Senior biology major Daniel Graham conducts research that focuses on the effect of chemotherapy drugs on gut bacteria.
Senior biology major Daniel Graham conducts research that focuses on the effect of chemotherapy drugs on gut bacteria.

By Jess Scanlon

The research of two senior biology majors may have an effect on the medicines of the future, and they have the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) to thank for the opportunity.

Seniors Daniel Graham and Megan Kozlowski applied for and were awarded Undergraduate Research Fellowships by ASM last spring and spent their summers at Rider conducting their research, using a $5,000 stipend to support it. Only 10 to 15 percent of applicants receive the grants.

“I worked on enteric gut bacteria and how they are affected by chemotherapy drugs,” said Graham. “I was able to carry out research to show the differences in effects of the drug on the [gut] bacteria.”

His research mentor, Dr. Kelly Bidle, an associate professor of biology, described Graham as a “quick learner, well-suited to scientific research.” Graham is the fourth student whom she has mentored who has earned this fellowship, and she was the one to first inform him about the grant.

“My research is beneficial to others because it can help in the understanding and treatment of cancer patients on chemotherapy treatment,” said Graham. “Particularly interesting to me is the prospect of seeding the gut of patients with specific bacteria to minimize or eliminate the nausea and sickness associated with chemotherapy treatments.”

Graham also received a $500 travel award to attend a general meeting held in Philadelphia for his research. His ambitions include studying radiology in medical school and earning a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Europe.

Kozlowski’s research focuses on the use of the anti-inflammatory arthritis drug Orencia. Her goal is to discover if the drug could be used to regulate the immune system, which could help in the treatment of diseases such as arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), according to her adviser, Dr. James Riggs.

“I felt that Megan had a great project,” said Riggs. “She also was an outstanding candidate.”

Kozlowski distributed a press release last spring discussing her work.

“Hopefully, I can make some progress seeing how the drugs are affecting the immune system,” she wrote.

Kozlowski presented some unrelated research at an American Association for Immunologist’s Meeting in Seattle last spring and has also been published in a peer-reviewed research journal.

Both students will present their research at the ASM Conference in San Diego this May, where their data will be shared with the wider scientific community, which will evaluate their claims.

The research projects of these two students are made possible by Rider’s science program. Graham attributes his interest and research in microbiology to the biology department’s Freshman Honors Program. Kozlowski was able to begin researching the project her freshman year.

“Her work could provide some insight as to how to slow down the disease process of this nasty [gut bacterium],” said Riggs. “Rider has a supportive infrastructure that allows us to get our work done.”

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