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Bright Futures: Cancer Research Great Opportunity

REU Experience Solidifies Grad's Future Plans

July 11, 2013

Tyler Hageman (’13) loves the problem-solving aspect of chemistry. In fact he’s decided to be a research chemist instead of his original career plan of becoming a pharmacist. Getting to do original research at MNU with his professor, Dr. Faith Jacobsen, played big a part in that decision. Even more integral was Tyler’s summer 2012 experience as one of ten undergraduates chosen for the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

Recognizing Tyler’s passion for chemistry research, Jacobsen recommended him for the prestigious program where a colleague is doing research similar to her own.

“These REU positions are highly competitive and typically 150-200 students from around the country compete for only 10 spots, so we were of course thrilled that Tyler was selected,” Jacobsen said.

Tyler was chosen to work with Dr. David  Tierney, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, based on academic accomplishments, faculty recommendations and a letter of application. The REU summer program is funded by the National Science Foundation and allows students the opportunity to work with faculty mentors, perform research, hear from well-known scientists and even present at a scientific symposium.

“My academics, work experience and interest to explore chemistry research are three factors that led to being chosen for this,” Tyler says. “I did a semester of research at MNU with Dr. Jacobsen prior to the REU. I am studying matrix metalloproteinase (MMP). MMPs are enzymes in the human body that regulate processes such as tissue restructuring, wound healing and angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels).”

Tyler’s particular area of research dealt with zinc’s influence on MMPs.

“The reason why this regulation of this specific enzyme is of interest to scientists is people diagnosed with cancer have more MMP activity in the body than normal,” Tyler says. “MMPs assist in tumor development. The idea is to find a way to inhibit these enzymes for people diagnosed with cancer in order to slow or limit their activity which might hopefully limit tumor growth.”

It’s not as if Tyler took a bottle off the shelf and started researching though.

“I basically started from scratch and made a compound that has been known to be a good inhibitor,” He says. “It took me much of the semester to perfect making this compound. Once I made the compound I mailed it to Dr. Tierney in Ohio to use in his lab.”

While at Miami University Tyler focused on the characteristics of the models they would use in research.

“Again I had to design a way to make a unique model from scratch,” he said. “This took me the whole summer to perfect. Dr. Tierney did further studies with the model I made and is publishing a paper about it soon.”

Back at MNU last year Tyler researched the actual inhibition of these models and hopes his research will someday contribute to effective treatment for cancer. No matter what, he says his MNU education prepared him for the REU.

“I am exploring what inhibitors there are in this area of research and how effectively they inhibit models of the MMP enzyme,” he says. “MNU definitely prepared me for the research experience. As a junior in college I was presented with a real world problem in active research and was expected to contribute to that area of research.” 

Tyler says the all these experiences have helped him solidify his future plans.

“I have also learned a lot about graduate school and the process to obtain a PhD in chemistry as well as a lot about the scientific community,” he says. “Another great experience was to get in front of real people and present my research numerous times. It is a great feeling to throw everything I worked so hard on out on the table and try to wow them with the accomplishments I have made in that area of research.”

“I plan to attend the University of Kansas graduate school for the PhD program in chemistry and have already accepted my offer to attend there in the fall (2013).”

In addition to hours spent in the lab and in coursework, Tyler Hageman was a defender for the Pioneers men’s soccer team.

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