In the summer of 2017, the University of Notre Dame opened its doors to students from other universities to participate in the annual Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in biology. Open to all rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors majoring in biology, the NSF-funded REU program involves 10 weeks of intensive research that culminates with a final presentation of all the participants’ research.
Jose Valentin was one of this past summer’s participants. A junior at the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey, Valentin was mentored by biology professor Zachary Schafer, and learned about cell cultures and how cancer cells operated under certain conditions. “What I learned from experiment to experiment could one day be applied to in vivo (living organism) models and result in a potential treatment for cancer.,” he said. Valentin’s experience with the REU focused in his interests, and he now intends to pursue an M.D. and Ph.D. in cancer biology.
Participant Emily Caballero, a junior at California State University, Fullerton, also conducted research on cancer. Working with biochemistry professor M. Sharon Stack, the Ann F. Dunne & Elizabeth Riley Director of Harper Cancer Research Institute, Caballero learned about tumor cells in young versus aged collagen, as well as the expression of fat metabolism genes with respect to diet. The San Pedro, Calif., native was particularly drawn to Notre Dame because of the University’s humanitarian focus and reputation in biology research. While Caballero learned a lot in her research, one of her biggest takeaways was that she now has a more firm desire to pursue a
Ph.D. in biology. Caballero’s ultimate goal is to establish a non-profit organization dedicated toward developing young, underserved students’ interests in biology.