Video News: Lawrentians Shine in Mercer County Engineering Fair

Ashley Lee ‘21 and Lauren Zhang ’22 were stars at the 2020 Mercer County Engineering Fair, held virtually on March 22. Zhang was tops in the Fair’s biochemistry, biology and medical section senior competition, followed by Lee, who placed second in the same category. Both Lawrentians presented projects that focused on cancer detection.
 
You can watch clips from their presentations below. Zhang begins at 8:03 and Lee at 9:04. 




Zhang said her research targets a minimally invasive and efficient method of cancer detection and diagnosis with a goal of decreasing cancer mortality rates worldwide.
 
“Through the applications of gold nanosensors to rapidly capture circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA), this research involves both the design and chemical synthesis of gold nanoparticles of varying nanogeometries and the testing of this technology on human samples with the G12D gene mutation, which is implicated in pancreatic cancer,” she explained.
 
This technology can not only be applied to cancer, but also a variety of other genetic and infectious diseases with known genome sequences, which, she noted, shows great promise for disease detection in the future.
 
Zhang, selected as Lawrenceville Hutchins Scholar, also earned her the American Meteorological Society Outstanding Achievement Award, in recognition for innovative scientific research with a great societal impact. Additionally, she was awarded the Air Force Research Laboratory Award for exemplary research recognized by the U.S Air Force.
 
Lee’s project investigated the anti-tumorigenic properties of herbal medicine curcumin, an active ingredient in traditional herbal remedies, and a potential agent for both the prevention and treatment of cancers. Her careful research earned her the Fair’s In vitro Biology Award, in recognition of the excellence of In vitro experiment setup.
 
“After traveling to Ecuador through [Lawrenceville’s] Harkness Travel program, I became more interested in botany,” Lee said. “One day, I learned that herbal medicines are able to induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in cancer cells. From then on, I looked into curcumin and its anti-tumorigenic activity because I found it so fascinating that such common plants have the potential to become cure for cancer.”
 
The Fourth Former explained that while small interfering RNA (siRNA)-based therapeutics in cancer treatment has also been developed, the effect of combination treatment with curcumin and siRNA on breast cancer has never been investigated. Through transcriptomic analysis and lab work, she used gene therapy to increase the efficacy of curcumin.
 
“My project showed that the combination of curcumin and siUBB significantly lowered breast cancer cell viability, indicating that the combination of curcumin treatment with RNA-based therapies could be more beneficial in treating breast cancer,” Lee stated.
 
For additional information, please contact Lisa M. Gillard Hanson, director of Public Relations, at lgillard@lawrenceville.org.
 
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