The Pelotonia Undergraduate Fellowship Program provides one-year research fellowships to the best and brightest Ohio State University undergraduate students who want to help cure cancer. Cancer is a complex disease, and curing it will take a multidisciplinary effort. So no matter what their field of study, from traditional scientific fields to fields like engineering, history and business, all Ohio State undergraduate students may apply.

Getting the brightest undergraduate students at Ohio State to start thinking about cancer is a primary emphasis of the undergraduate program. Undergraduate students try out different fields and make choices that will affect their careers. Many of these students can contribute greatly to the field of cancer research if they have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in this critical field. 

So far, 154 Pelotonia Undergraduate Fellows have been funded. These students have very diverse majors, from Molecular Genetics and Biology to Anthropology and World Literatures, and they work on varied projects that include investigating how different therapeutic agents improve natural killer cells’ ability to kill tumor cells, and measuring how social support may help improve the quality of lives of cancer survivors and their families.

Competition for Pelotonia Undergraduate Fellowships is fierce. Each year, approximately 80 undergraduate applications are submitted. Each application is critically reviewed by members of the Pelotonia Fellowship Committee. Because of the prestigious nature of these awards, many students have reported that receiving a fellowship has distinguished them from their peers when applying to and being accepted into medical school or PhD programs.

Most students have financial responsibilities and are not able to volunteer as research assistants in cancer research labs. For that reason, undergraduate fellows are paid a $12,000 annual stipend to work on their independent research projects. This generous stipend allows them to fulfill their financial responsibilities while gaining valuable experience in moving the field of cancer research forward and developing their own projects. During the summer, they are expected to put fulltime effort into their projects, and during the academic year, part-time effort. 

Up to four fellowships are dedicated to support diversity enhancement. We are looking for diversity not only in applicants, but also in projects. We are very motivated to fund diverse projects and strongly encourage students from all areas of study who are interested in cancer research to apply.


To be eligible, an applicant must:

  • Be an outstanding Ohio State undergraduate student
  • Propose a cancer-related project
  • Be willing to participate in Pelotonia

Applications for the next Undergraduate Pelotonia Fellowships will be due February 15, 2016, and are scored on the following criteria:

  • Applicant strengths and research potential
  • Mentor/advisor qualifications and training record
  • Relevance of the project to cancer research

Read the full guidelines 

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2015 Undergraduate Student Pelotonia Fellows

Daniel Banaszak

Project – The Effect of Extracellular Vesicle-associated HLA-E on Natural Killer Cells in Multiple Myeloma

Summary – Evaluate how tumor cells use a key cell signaling molecule called HLA-E to evade the immune system. This information will be used to possibly improve therapy for multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood.

Raphael Banoub

Project – Breast tumor enhanced CXCL 12 chemotaxis sensitivity induced by macrophage-derived microvesicles on nanoengineered, biomimetic topographies for breast tumor cell migration

Summary -To learn how structures secreted by cancer-associated healthy cells, called microvesicles, aid in cancer’s ability to spread to new areas forming additional tumors. This study aims to generate new therapies that block the ability of tumors to receive help from its environment and its ability to spread.

Serena Chang

Project – Dance: A Holistic Expression of the Cancer Experience

Summary – Investigate how the physical and emotional experiences of cancer survivors can exist in a dance medium. Movement will be generated based on the biological processes of cancer as well as the journeys of cancer survivors. The final piece, as well as the process of creating the work, is intended to further raise awareness of the holistic cancer experience.

Julian Clouse

Project – Examining the Roles and Interactions of E2F8 and Fat Content in Dietary Induced Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Summary – Analyzing the role played by E2F8 in the progression of liver cancer, specifically hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), caused by a high-fat diet. E2F8 is a gene that normally regulates cell division and contributes to preventing HCC formation and progression. This may offer understanding of the complex nature of liver cancer while providing insight into a cheap yet effective method of treating and improving the quality of life of patients with liver cancer.

Joanne Hyun

Project – Role of Rng13 and Unc-13/Munc13 family proteins during cytokinesis

Summary – Determine whether the protein Rng13 and its protein family, the Unc-13/Munc13 family, play a role in regulating cell separation. Failure of cells to properly separate leads to a state known as aneuploidy, a known hallmark of cancer. This project will help to further our understanding of the processes regulating cell separation in normal and cancer cells.

Joshua Javor

Project – Development of Eddy Current Microscopy for Cancer Detection

Summary – Design and develop a noninvasive microscope using eddy-current techniques to supplement optical microscopy in the detection of cancer.

Jude Khatib

Project – Heart rate variability and cognitive function among breast cancer survivors

Summary – Investigate the relationship between heart rate variability, a measurement of parasympathetic nervous system activity, and cognitive impairment in breast cancer patients to identify a potential parasympathetic pathway contributing to cognitive impairment among cancer survivors. This information may help identify survivors at risk for experiencing cognitive issues following cancer treatment, and ultimately develop interventions to improve cancer survivors’ quality of life.

George Koutras

Project – Increasing Potency and Safety of Oncolytic Viral Therapy for Glioblastoma

Summary - Look in to changing specific genes in currently researched oncolytic viruses. We hope that by changing certain genes, we improve the potency of the virus against brain tumors and improve the virus’s safety as well.

Marie Lamantia

Project – It Takes Two to Tango: A Study on the Effect of Dance-Based Interventions for Cancer Survivors

Summary – Determine the feasibility of using Argentine Tango to improve balance, perception of physical state, and self efficacy among cancer survivors with balance deficits, focusing on survivors who are deconditioned or nerve damaged (e.g. diagnosed with Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy). This study will provide the first known evidence of whether dance-based interventions can improve balance and quality of life among cancer survivors.

Matthew Lordo

Project – Elucidating the Role of UbE2K in the Post-Translational Regulation of PTEN in Breast Cancer

Summary – Evaluate how a tumor suppressor gene known as PTEN is lost in human cancer. PTEN helps prevent tumor formation and growth. This information will further our basic knowledge of cancer progression and will possibly lead to new therapeutic options for cancer patients.

Samarchitha Magal

Project – Role of Anterior gradient protein 2 (AGR2) in regulating PTEN protein stability in breast cancer

Summary - This project aims to evaluate the role of AGR2 in regulating PTEN protein stability by establishing a reciprocal relationship between these two proteins. This will allow us to further understand the impact of this relationship on breast cancer progression, and ultimately provide alternative treatment options for these patients.

Sophia Maharry

Project – Elucidating the impact of the novel aggressive NRAS isoform 5 in acute myeloid leukemia

Summary – We recently discovered five novel variants of the well-known gene NRAS, which is involved in the development and progression of most human cancers. We will investigate the effects of the smallest NRAS variant, in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a blood cancer. As initial experiments have shown that this small variant leads to more aggressive growth of cancer cells, the results of this study could improve the treatment options and survival of many AML patients.

Rohit Menon

Project – The Effects of Carfilzomib on the Natural Killer Cell – Multiple Myeloma Interface

Summary – Evaluate how an anti-cancer drug can work together with immune cells in our body to improve therapy for multiple myeloma, an incurable form of blood cancer.

Tejaswani Nallanagulagari

Project – Enhancing Therapeutic Efficacy of an Oncolytic Virus with a ?1 Integrin Blocking Antibody, OS2966

Summary – Oncolytic virus (OV) therapy utilizes genetically engineered viruses to specifically destroy cancer cells. In this study, oncolytic viruses will be combined with an experimental agent (?1 Integrin Blocking Antibody, OS2966) to examine if this combination treatment can increase the effectiveness of OV therapy. This research will be used to improve treatment for individuals fighting Glioblastoma Multiforme, a deadly brain cancer.

Cristina Ocrainiciuc

Project – Acquired resistance to BGJ398 inhibitor of fibroblast growth factor receptor gene fusions in the bladder cancer cell line, RT-112

Summary – To shed light on how cancer becomes resistant to novel therapies that our patients receive, we are studying drug resistance using pre-clinical models in the laboratory.

Jennifer Patritti Cram

Project – Identification and characterization of the novel tumor suppressor gene gon-14 in C.briggsae Muv mutants

Summary – I use the nematodes as simple experimental systems to identify new tumor suppressor genes, and to understand how they influence cell signaling and cell division. This work will also allow characterization of how these genes may function as a tumor suppressor in different genetic backgrounds, to better understand how genomic context can influence cancer. The long-term vision of this project is to contribute to the development of targeted drug therapies and personalized approaches to decrease/ eliminate cancer tumors cells in patients.

David Rabinovich

Project – The Biophysical Effects of an N-Terminal Extension on Tumor Suppressor p53

Summary – Analyze the stability of tumor suppressor p53 by focusing on two regions, the S7S8 turn and the N-terminal extension. Loss of p53 function occurs in half of human cancers and research on these regions can provide insight into how to rescue malfunctioning p53 from cancerous cells.

Victoria Simons

Project – Examining differences in the sur-2/Med23 gene and EGF/Ras signaling pathway in C. elegans and C. briggsae

Summary – Examine a gene called sur-2 in two worm species, C. elegans and C. briggsae, to see how the gene works in each. This gene is similar to one in humans that is important in some lung cancers, and learning about how the gene works differently in the two worms may tell us more about how different people might respond to different cancer treatments.

Ben Stocker

Project – Using Laser Capture Microdissection to Analyze How the Loss of Cyclin A2 Affects Signaling Pathways and the Cell Cycle in Neural Progenitor and Stem Cells and Glioblastoma

Summary – Glioblastoma multiforme is a type of brain tumor that originates from neural progenitor cells and astrocytes. Neural progenitor cells are stem cell like cells in the brain that can become more specialized brain cells, one of which are astrocytes. This project will use laser capture microdissection and protein mass spectrometry to determine how the loss of the protein Cyclin A2 affects other signaling proteins in neural progenitor cells in certain regions of the brain and in cultured cancerous glioblastoma cells.

Nicholas Trivelas

Project – Assembly and function of Mn/Fe lipid oxidases: Towards understanding virulence and reducing Mt-related lung cancer mortality

Summary – Understand how a new metalloprotein discovered in tuberculosis incorporates both manganese and iron into its structure and determine its function. These results will shed insight into the key processes required for virulence in tuberculosis and other deadly organisms, which will provide an important avenue for novel therapeutics and treatment strategies targeting the metallome of cancer-inducing pathogens.

Reena Underiner

Project – The role of LKB1 signaling in NRAS-driven metastatic melanoma

Summary – Investigate the role of the LKB1 protein in the development of invasive melanomas and identify additional proteins that may be involved in the spread of melanoma to other organs throughout the body. This information will provide us with more clarity about how cancers spread and will be used to develop more durable and effective patient treatments.

Sarvani Uppati

Project – Investigation of the effect of Ibrutinib, a Bruton Tryosine Kinase inhibitor, on myeloid derived suppressor cell function

Summary – Evaluate how the drug Ibrutinib affects Myeloid Derived Suppressor cells (MDSC’s) around the tumor site. MDSC’s are immunosuppressive and promote tumor growth by suppressing immune function of Natural Killer (NK) and T cells. This project may help determine the use of Ibrutinib as an effective immunotherapeutic drug.

Ross Wanner

Project – Determination of HO-3867 bio-absorption and molecular composition of cellular metabolites

Summary – Investigate the means by which a potential therapeutic agent, called an aryl hydrocarbon receptor antagonist (AHR), improves natural killer cells’ ability to kill multiple myeloma tumor cells. This information may be used to improve therapy for multiple myeloma, a presently incurable cancer of the blood.

Allen Yi

Project – The Role of PGs and PTPs in Breast Cancer Cell Survival

Summary - This project will investigate how two different types of molecules, HSPG and CSPG, work with a molecule called PTPRS in the breast cancer cell. Because HSPG and CSPG will create opposite effects in the cell, this research will uncover how PTPRS can work with HSPG or CSPG to change a cancer cell’s protection against chemotherapy. This research will help us develop a drug to change how HSPG and CSPG interact with PTPRS to reduce different types of cancers’ resistance to chemotherapy.

Michael Zhang

Project – The Role of Innate Lymphoid Cells in Natural Killer Cell Development and Cytotoxicity Regulation

Summary – The human body contains potent immune cells which can detect and destroy cancer. We will investigate how ILCs, a recently discovered group of immune cells, can regulate cancer killing. This study will help improve current cancer treatments.

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