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Cancer Research Reinforces Career Choice

Senior Felicia Lenzo has an aunt who is a breast cancer survivor, and for her summer Field Period, Lenzo wanted to study breast cancer in hopes of learning more about the disease.

So,  the biochemistry major and Endicott resident was encouraged by Joan Magnusen, professor of biology, to pursue cancer research in Carolyn Klinge’s ’79 lab.

“After e-mailing Dr. Klinge and reading about the research she had done involving breast cancer, I was more interested to apply to her lab,” said Lenzo. “The opportunity to do research on breast cancer was the perfect deal, because I would get to learn how a graduate-level biochemistry lab worked as well as study breast cancer cells.”

Lenzo completed 10 weeks of research at the University of Louisville  School of Medicine as part of its Summer Research Opportunity Program for undergraduate students.  Lenzo follows a path of research-minded Keukonians; she is the ninth Keuka student to study in Klinge’s lab.

During her Field Period, Lenzo was responsible for planning and executing her own experiments. She was also accountable for collecting, analyzing, and presenting the data she gathered from her experiments to Klinge and entire lab staff at weekly meetings.

“Felicia worked with a post-doctoral research associate and a graduate student in my lab to perform experiments on breast cancer cells,” said Klinge. “She used a variety of biochemical/molecular techniques to address the role of a protein called Nuclear Respiratory Factor-1 (NRF-1) in tamoxifen/endocrine resistance in breast cancer.”

Lenzo’s research was “supported by an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act  supplement to my grant,” according to Klinge.

ARRA supplements can be used to cover costs that are associated with increasing the tempo of scientific research and/or achieving limited new research objectives, as long as they are within the original scope of the parent grant.

Among the things Lenzo learned during her Field Period was the realization that while conducting research, things do not always work out as planned.

“An experiment may have failed completely due to something out of my control, or I may have had to start over because my hand slipped while pipetting,” said Lenzo. “I also learned that I love research, problem solving, questioning, brainstorming, and not knowing the answers to problems and the challenges that come when you try to solve them.”

Lenzo credits her Keuka science classes for preparing her for a “real life” lab experience.

“All of the labs for my core science classes helped me perfect my lab techniques and skills,” said Lenzo. “Even if I was going to do a procedure in Dr. Klinge’s lab that I had never done before, I had learned about the technique in a class, so I was knowledgeable about the procedure.”

According to Klinge, Lenzo “developed excellent research skills and made important contributions to this study. She will be included as a co-author on a manuscript describing the results of this research.”

Lenzo’s final Field Period was “an awesome experience. It solidified my goal to continue my education by getting my Ph.D.in  biochemistry. It cemented that I am going to be a biochemist.”

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