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Investigating Iron in Cancer Cells

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CATEGORY: Academics
TYPE: Articles
RELATED PROGRAMS: Biology

By | Burton Masem ’14
Winters, California
Biology

“My biology and chemistry classes at Macalester were good preparation for addressing these research questions.”

Examining the effects of iron overload on ovarian cancer cells was the research topic I explored last summer. I worked under Sundaram Ramakrishnan in the University of Minnesota's Department of Pharmacology through Macalester's Academic Health Sciences Summer Research Program (AHSSRP).

Iron is crucial for cellular processes ranging from respiration to division. Cancer cells are typically thought to have altered iron metabolisms, which might be exploited therapeutically. To explore this possibility, I overloaded cultured ovarian cancer cells with iron, then investigated changes in cell proliferation, morphology (structure), and expression levels of key proteins.

My biology and chemistry classes at Macalester were good preparation for addressing these research questions, understanding the scientific literature, and troubleshooting when things didn't go quite as planned. Cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, and evolutionary concepts were all neatly wedded in this research, from understanding relevant articles and formulating hypotheses to optimizing the protocols and interpreting results.

The summer program also gave me the chance to  shadow medical professionals, including a gynecological oncologist who also had a research fellowship in our lab.

I finished the program with a much better sense of what scientists do on a daily basis, and a clearer understanding of the path to becoming a scientist.

PUBLISHED: 01/22/2014