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, 129 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.

Eligibility

To be eligible, an applicant must:

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

Application

Applications for the next Undergraduate Pelotonia Fellowships were due January 15, 2015 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 

2014 Undergraduate Student Pelotonia Fellows

Greeshma Allareddy

Major – Biology

Mentor – Kathleen Boris-Lawrie, PhD

Project – The Coordinate Role of RNA Helicase A and Tax in HTLV-1 Induced Cell Transformation

Summary – Llearning and understanding how the interaction of two proteins, the cellular host protein, RNA Helicase A (RHA) and an essential viral protein Tax, helps the virus, Human T-cell Leukeumia Virus Type 1 (HTLV-1), to hijack our cellular machinery, cause cells to transform and lead to Adult T-cell Leukemia/Lymphoma (ATLL). This information will provide insight into ways to therapeutically halt the transformation process, and eventually the spread of ATLL, by specifically targeting these two proteins and/or their interactions in our cells..

Zaynab Amin

Major – Molecular Genetics

Mentor – Frances Huebner, PhD

Project – The Timing and Effects of APOBEC3B and Fhit Expression Changes in Lung Cancer

Summary - This project will investigate genes that play a role in causing mutations that lead to cancer. We will focus on how the abnormal expression of the genes APOBEC3B (A3B) and FHIT lead to mutations found in many types of cancer.This research could lead to future diagnostic methods and treatment options involving A3B.

B. Rashmi Borah

Major – Philosophy and Microbiology

Mentor – Mariko Nakano, PhD

Project – Prophylactic Organ Removal as a Means of Cancer Prevention: A Programmatic Analysis of Relevant Ethical Considerations

Summary – This project will evaluate three arguments that contribute to determining the ethical status of prophylactic organ removal. The goal of this project is to show how these arguments help provide a more informed decision about prophylactic organ removal for individual patients.

Michael Butrey

Major – Biology

Mentor – Christin Burd, PhD

Project – Regulation of the INK4/ARF tumor suppressor locus with CTCF

Summary – To analyze the effects of blocking a molecule called CTCF, a protein that normally binds to DNA. This molecule binds to a particular region in the DNA that is altered in most all forms of cancer. This information will give us more insight into how this region is changed by cancer cells, yielding more knowledge into the pathway that cancer cells use to continue growing.

Zheng Che

Major – Microbiology

Mentor – Gregory Lesinski, PhD

Project – Cytostatic and immunomodulatory effects of MEK and Jak2 inhibition in biliary cancers

Summary – Determine how two experimental compounds combat immune suppression and growth of biliary cancer cells by identifying how they target the key survival pathway MAPK/ERK. This information could lead to new therapies that better inhibit tumor growth.

James DeBacker

Major – Speech and Hearing Science

Mentor – Eric Bielefeld

Project – Long Term Effects of the Synergistic Interaction of Cisplatin and Noise

Summary – Evaluate the effects of the chemotherapy drug cisplatin on hearing ability even after the drug is no longer being administered. This will help to determine how long chemotherapy patients need to protect their hearing after stopping treatment and what kind of advice doctors should provide these patients.

Sam Dubin

Major – Neuroscience

Mentor – Balveen Kaur, PhD

Project – Enhancing Therapeutic Efficacy of an Oncolytic Virus with a CSF1R Inhibitor, GW2850

Summary – Oncolytic virus therapy utilizes specially engineered viruses to selectively destroy cancer. This type of virus therapy is emerging as a promising treatment against cancer. This study will evaluate if oncolytic viruses can be used to treat breast cancer that has spread to the brain. This study will also examine if oncolytic viruses can be combined with existing therapies to improve treatments for patients with this disease.

Andrew Eiterman

Major – Finance

Mentor – Albert de la Chapelle, MD, PhD

Project – Identification and Analysis of PTC Predisposing Variants in Thyroid Transcription Factor 1 Gene

Summary - Identify genetic variations predisposing individuals to papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) near TTF-1, a gene important for regulation of thyroid-specific genes, and analyze the effect of these variations on TTF-1 function and cancer growth. The results may prove important in developing possible treatments for PTC, as well as improving genetic counseling by identifying genetic variants putting individuals at risk for PTC.

Aaron Englander

Major – Economics

Mentor – Paul Healy and Katherine Coffman

Project – Uncertain Prognoses and Cancer Patients’ Emotional Outlook

Summary – I use the tools of decision theory and experimental economics to study how to improve doctor-patient communication of cancer prognoses involving significant ambiguity.

Javkhlan-Ochir Ganbat

Major – Computer Science and Engineering

Mentor – Ralf Bundschuh, PhD

Project – MBD-BS: Accurate and cost efficient analysis of Genome-Wide DNA methylation

Summary – Designing a new tool to investigate genome-qwide methylation patterns. Methylation plays an important role in tumor and cancer development and this tool will provide information on cancer diagnosis as well as potential therapy.

Nikhil Gupta

Major – Biochemistry

Mentor – John Byrd, MD

Project – The Role of Epigenetic Modifications, Including Hydroxymethylation, in the Transcriptional Regulation of ZAP-70 in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Summary - Examine how changes in DNA change how much ZAP-70, a protein that when present in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) indicates more aggressive disease, is present in cancer cells. Understanding these DNA changes may provide a new source for therapy to target, and will give more information on cancer biology.

Yannis Hadjiyannis

Major – Molecular Genetics

Mentor – Gustavo Leone, PhD

Project – PTEN and MMS22L transgenic screening in Prostate, Uterine, and Mammary Gland Cancer

Summary – To further understand the role of PTEN in cancer formation the gene MMS22L will be removed from the prostate, uterus, and mammary glands of mice. This removal of the gene MMS22L may provide further insight on the role they play in cancer. All in all, this information and this project aim to demonstrate the gene MMS22L as a possible target for gene therapy and, ultimately, provide relief and treatment for those suffering from prostate, uterus, and mammary gland cancer.

Andrea Holderbaum

Major – Biology

Mentor – Christin Burd, PhD

Project – Cooperation of NRASQ61R and Ultra-Violet Radiation in the Etiology of Malignant Melanoma

Summary – Investigate the role of ultra-violet radiation in the development of melanoma and identify genetic mutations caused by exposure to ultra-violet radiation that contribute to the formation of melanoma. This information will be used to develop effective therapies for patients with melanoma and to evaluate measures that could prevent tumors from forming.

Kaitlin Keenan

Major – Biomedical Science

Mentor – Gregory Lesinski, PhD

Project – STAT3 Inhibition in Biliary Cancer

Summary – Demonstrate how a new compound blocks a key molecule called STAT3, a protein that helps cancer cells escape the immune system and continue dividing. This information will be used to improve therapy for biliary cancer, a devastating cancer of the bile duct.

Gregory Kemper

Major – Microbiology

Mentor – William Carson, MD

Project – Improvement of BRAF Therapy of Melanoma via Proteasome Inhibition

Summary – Treatment of BRAF mutant melanoma with a BRAF inhibitor (vemurafenib) in combination with a proteasome inhibitor (MLN2238) will be studied. If the pre-clinical studies are successful, this drug combination may represent a new treatment regimen to be studied in a clinical trial setting for melanoma patients.

Alisha Lad

Major – Molecular Genetics

Mentor – Stephen A. Osmani, PhD

Project – Investigating the role of NIMA kinase and Eb1 Interaction in microtubule dynamics during cell cycle regulation

Summary – The aim of my project is to understand the potential role of the NIMA protein kinase in microtubule dynamics by studying its interaction with microtubule binding protein Eb1. This information will be useful in the development of cancer therapy drugs targeting microtubule dynamics.

Heidi Liou

Major – Fashion and Retail Studies

Mentor – Candace Stout,

Project – Stronger Than Ever: A Narrative and Photographic Project of Ohio State niversity Student Cancer Survivors

Summary – Stronger Than Ever is a photojournalism project, putting together stories and inspirational quotes of young adult cancer survivors in the Columbus community.

Peter Lyon

Major – Molecular Genetics

Mentor – Amanda Simcox, PhD

Project – Genetic analysis of Drosophila ADAMTS (CG4096)—a novel negative regulator of Egfr signaling

Summary – The Egfr pathway, which relays signals controlling cell division, plays an important role in cancer, including breast cancer. Our lab has identified a new protein in the Egfr pathway that is a negative regulator. The aim of this project is to conduct genetic and biochemical analyses of this protein in order to more fully understand how it regulates the Egfr pathway.

Rachel Miller

Major – Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

Mentor – William Carson, MD

Project – Investigation of protein-protein interactions among cell polarity determinants

Summary – Evaluate how different genes interact to establish cell polarity in budding yeast. A disruption in cell polarity is a hallmark of cancer and is commonly observed in tumors. Genes that regulate polarity mechanisms offer a potential new class of tumor suppressors.

Alina Murphy

Major – Molecular Genetics

Mentor – Gustavo Leone, PhD

Project – Rb, FoxM1, and Gene Regulation Pathways in Cancer

Summary – Discover more about the way two proteins called FoxM1 and Rb function together in the cell to control cell division. Cancer is caused by cells dividing too quickly, so learning more about these proteins may lead to new cancer treatments.

Mara Nickel

Major – Molecular Genetics

Mentor – Michael Ostrowski, PhD

Project – Discerning the mechanism of microRNA regulation in tumor-associated macrophages that promote breast cancer metastasis

Summary – Confirm the compartment of breast cancer-promoting protein signals in tumor cells and suggest a mechanism for their signaling. This information could allow for further discoveries in targeted therapeutic treatments for breast cancer.

Colin Packard

Major – Molecular Genetics

Mentor – Jeffrey Parvin, MD, PhD

Project – Impact of Cisplatin in combination with HDAC inhibitors in homologous recombination

Summary – Evaluate the combination effects of two different cancer drugs on cells with different cancer related genes. This knowledge will provide information about specific treatments for patients with specific types of cancer and people with certain combinations of genes.

Maria Paskell

Major – Pharmaceutical Sciences

Mentor – Don Benson, MD, PhD

Project – Targeting AHR to enhance natural killer cell function against multiple myeloma

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.

Ronak Patel

Major – Biology

Mentor – Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD

Project – Socioeconomic status, social support, and perceived daily stress among breast cancer survivors

Summary - Measure how social support, socioeconomic hardship and perceived stress affect the lives of cancer survivors through the use of the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL), Daily Inventory of Stressful Events (DISE) and Socioeconomic Status (SES). The results from this study will be used to link all these factors to help improve the quality of lives of cancer survivors and their families.

Archit Sahai

Major – Molecular Genetics

Mentor – David M. Bisaro

Project – AL2 involvement in RNA-dependent-DNA-methylation

Summary - Understand how a plant virus protein called AL2 interacts with helper proteins to change DNA expression. This may allow us to understand how cancer cells change the expression of key genes that eventually lead to the development of cancer.

Zamon Sawyer

Major – Biology

Mentor – Helen Chamberlin, PhD

Project – A Window of Opportunity: How the PAX Gene Family May Lend Insight into Cancer Cell Proliferation

Summary – Learn what role paired box genes, called PAX genes, play in the production of fatty acids. Cancer cells require fatty acids in order to grow and communicate with other cells, and finding the genes that regulate fatty acid production will lend insight into how best to disrupt the rapid growth of cancer cells.

Nisitha Sengottuvel

Major – Molecular Genetics

Mentor – Natarajan Muthusamy, DVM, PhD

Project – Investigating the Role of the Ets-1 Protein in Marginal Zone B Cell Differentiation and Survival

Summary – We have created a mouse that does not make a protein called Ets-1. Absence of this protein affected the growth and development of a type of white blood cell called B cells. We want to learn how this protein controls normal growth of B cells and what happens when this protein is not working properly. Learning this will help us to understand how certain lymphomas are created and can be treated.

Connor Sullivan

Major – Biochemistry

Mentor – Gustavo Leone, PhD

Project – Determining a molecular basis for variable penetrance utilizing low- and high-penetrant Rb mutant cell lines

Summary – To investigate the molecular basis for why some mutations in RB will always lead to cancer and other mutations in RB cause cancer in only some cases. Results from this study could help to better inform mutation carriers of the risk posed to their offspring and also aid in predicting tumor progression of cancers where an RB mutation exists.

Ross Wanner

Major – Biology Pre-Medicine

Mentor – Selvendiran Karuppaiyah, PhD

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

Summary – An analog of the naturally occurring compound curcumin inhibits ovarian cancer, most notably in a STAT3-mediated manner. This project is designed to study the modes of absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of this novel anti-cancer compound within platinum-sensitive and resistant cell lines, over various time periods. The experimental data will be analyzed to find ideal dosages of the compound, which in turn will aid the transition of this drug from pre-clinical into clinical trials.

Benjamin Wissel

Major – Biomedical Engineering

Mentor – Jessica Winter, PhD

Project – Migratory Variations in Glioblastoma Subtypes

Summary – To learn about the migratory variations in different subtypes of Glioblastoma multiforme, a highly aggressive type of brain cancer. Insight into the way these subtypes behave could lead to doctors being able to more effectively treat the specific subtype of Glioblastoma a patient has, rather treating all the different subtypes the same way. Ultimately, this will lead to more effective, personalized treatment for Glioblastoma.