Undergraduate Student Pelotonia Fellowship Program

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, 244 Pelotonia Undergraduate Student 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 full-time 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

Undergraduate Eligibility and Scoring Criteria


2019 Undergraduate Student Pelotonia Fellows

Kriti Agrawal

Kriti Agrawal

Mentor – Thomas Mace



Project – Lipocalin-2 Expression by Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells in the Pancreatic Tumor Microenvironment



Summary – Pancreatic cancer is notorious for its late diagnosis due to a lack of symptoms in early stages. Because of this, treatment is usually not initiated until the aggressive cancer has multiplied or metastasized. By analyzing Lipocalin-2 (LCN2) and myeloid-derived suppresor cells (MDSCs) in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) samples, we hope to study the effect it has on tumor cell growth.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Hussam Alkhalaileh

Hussam Alkhalaileh

Mentor – Gregory Behbehani



Project – Differential Responses of Available FLT3 Inhibitors in FLT3-Mutated Acute Myeloid Leukemia



Summary – Using an in vitro culture system developed by our lab, we propose to grow and maintain acute myeloid leukemia (AML) immune cell subsets such as blood cells and mature cells without depleting leukemic stem cells (LSC). This culture system allows us to test the sensitivity of AML samples carrying FTL3 and other mutations to five FLT3 inhibitor drugs. The goal of this study is to determine the ability of each FLT3 inhibitor to inhibit the unregulated growth of immature AML cell populations and how this is affected by interaction with FLT3 and other mutations.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 55 miles



Jacqueline Caputo

Jacqueline Caputo

Mentor – Janice Kiecolt-Glase



Project – Heart Rate Variability as a Predictor of Future Cognitive Decline in Breast Cancer Survivors



Summary – Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of the variation between heart beats. Higher HRV indicates health and the ability to adapt appropriately to environmental challenges. If one has a lower HRV, this could indicate or predict cardiovascular or cognitive impairments. This study will investigate a potential protective factor – high HRV – that may shield breast cancer survivors from cognitive decline during cancer treatment.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Logan Chrislip

Logan Chrislip

Mentor – Lei Cao



Project – The Impact of Social Isolation on NK Cells and Tumor Progression



Summary – We hypothesize that social isolation hinders the development and overall number of NK cells and thereby increases tumor size and decreases survival. To prove this, we will study the effect that environmental enrichment – a housing condition providing mental stimulation, physical activity and social interactions – has on mice with various types of cancer.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 55 miles



Emma Crawford

Emma Crawford

Mentor – Christin Burd



Project – Determining the Role of Eu- and Pheo-Melanin in Melanoma Formation



Summary – Use genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMs) that carry the most frequent gene mutations found in human melanoma, BRAF and NRAS mutations to study the role of skin
pigmentation in melanoma formation.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Alexander (Alex) Didier

Alexander Didier

Mentor – Gina Sizemore and Bhuvaneswari Ramaswamy



Project – Role of PDGF-B in Human Breast Cancer Progression



Summary – Use cell lines that come from human breast cancers to test whether higher levels of PDGF-B (or platelet-derived growth factor B) cause breast cancer cells to grow faster in tissue culture, in the mouse mammary gland and/or in the mouse brain. My group believes that higher tumor PDGF-B can be a predictor of which women will eventually develop brain metastases, and that knowing this information could guide treatment options more effectively, especially since drugs that block PDGFR are already used to treat patients with other types of cancer.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Walla (Miguel) Disbennett

Mentor – Ruben Petreaca and Jian-Qiu Wu



Project – Analysis of the Histone Chaperone HIRA in Promoting Intra-Chromosomal Deletions



Summary – When DNA copies itself inside of a cell, the process doesn’t always occur correctly and the two strands that compose the DNA can break. Cellular machineries exist to repair these breaks, but sometimes, these machineries fail. When such failures occur, genetic change accumulates and may cause cancer. We identified a mutation in yeast called Hip1 (human tumor suppressor HIRA) that decreases the rate of chromosomal deletions. Our goal is to understand how Hip1 fits into the overall repair process with the hope of outlining a genetic mechanism of chromosomal deletions.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Virtual rider



Logan Good

Logan Good

Mentor – William Carson



Project – Targeting Myeloid-Derived Supressor Cells With BRD4 Inhibition



Summary – One reason that immunotherapy may not be effective in patients with cancer is because of certain cells that prevent the patient’s own immune cells from functioning properly. These suppressive cells, called MDSC, are thought to be blocking the effectiveness of immunotherapies. We believe that by using a drug to block a protein, the MDSC will be destroyed or not even produced in the first place, therefore making immunotherapy more effective in patients with breast cancer.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 45 miles



Evie Goodyear

Evie Goodyear

Mentor – Jian-Qiu Wu



Project – Exploring the Interaction Between the β-glucan Synthase Bgs1 and the Protein Sbg1 During Cytokinesis



Summary – Clarify the mechanism of the interaction between the protein Bgs1 and the recently characterized protein Sbg1 and depict how this interaction is critical to Bgs1 regulation and function in the cell.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Nickelas (Nick) Huffman

Nick Huffman

Mentor – Vincenzo Coppola



Project – RanBP9 in Melanomaigenesis



Summary – Study the role of Ran Binding Protein 9 (RanBP9) in the start of NRAS mutant melanoma and determine the expression of, and the proteins interacting with, RanBP9 in an NRAS mutant melanoma mouse model.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Sabrina Kaul

Sabrina Kaul

Mentor – Zobeida Cruz-Monserrate



Project – The Potential Role of Cathepsin E Activity and Expression in Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer



Summary – Determine if pancreatic cysts with different risk levels for pancreatic cancer exhibit different levels of Cathepsin E (CTSE) activity and expression, and then study the role of CTSE activity and expression in human pancreatic cancer cells. If the CTSE inhibitor changes the cancer cell characteristics, then it could help to detect pancreatic cancer earlier and improve patient outcomes.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Jack Kucinski

Jack Kucinski

Mentor – Helen Chamberlin



Project – Examining Histone H2A.z and its Role in Transcriptional Repression as a Possible Tumor Suppressor



Summary – The goal of this project is to determine how HTZ-1/H2A.z functions inside C. elegans and associates with target genes. This would provide a better understanding of the mechanism of HTZ-1/H2A.z and explain how it could behave as a tumor suppressor with LIN-35/RB.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Virtual rider



Aretha (Ari) On

Ari On

Mentor – Lynne Abruzzo



Project – The Effects of NRIP1 on Proliferation, Apoptosis and Wnt Activation in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia



Summary – Test the hypothesis that reduced expression of NRIP1 contributes to abnormal activation of Wnt in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells, resulting in increased cell growth and reduced cell death, by reducing expression of NRIP1 in CLL cells and assessing the viability of these cells using one assay that detects metabolic activity of cells and another assay that detects dead or dying cells.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Lauren Peltier

Lauren Peltier

Mentor – Anita Hopper



Project – Stress-Induced tRNA Intron Accumulation as a Potential Mechanism of Gene Regulation



Summary – Transfer ribonucleic acids (tRNAs) are molecules in cells that bring amino acids to the ribosome. In order for tRNAs to perform their function, they must first be transcribed and then modified. Some tRNAs contain sequences of nucleotides that are not essential for their function, called introns. These introns are cut out of the tRNA molecules by a complex composed of four different enzymes. Once the intron sequences are removed, they are degraded into individual nucleotides. This study will investigate various environmental stress conditions in an attempt to identify conditions in which the introns are not degraded. If they are not degraded and remain in a sequence in the cell, they might serve a specific function.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Nikhil Pramod

Nikhil Pramrod

Mentor – Bhuvaneswari Ramaswamy and Sarmila Majumder



Project – Unlocking Her2 as a Target in Invasive Lobular and Endocrine-Resistant Invasive Ductal Carcinoma 



Summary – Study the effects of tamoxifen, tucatinib (ONT-380) and an FDA-approved drug targeting estrogen receptor alpha on a growth of cancer cells to determine if this drug combination can be used to treat patients with invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) and those who have failed antiestrogen therapy.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 45 miles



Grant Stellini

Grant Stellini

Mentor – Susan Cole



Project – Analysis of Jagged1 Activation and Inhibition of Notch in Development and Cancer



Summary – Our lab is interested in furthering the understanding of Notch, a cell-to-cell communication pathway that is present in many animals. It is an important feature in the early development of cells, specifically in determining what the function of a cell will become and in the multiplication of cells. Since the rate at which cells multiply is central to the development of cancer, a mistake in the function of this pathway could lead to cancer.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 45 miles



Olivia Ueltschi

Olivia Ueltschi

Mentor – Zobeida Cruz-Monserrate



Project – The Role of Increased Physical Activity on Immune Response in Pancreatic Cancer



Summary – Investigate whether physical activity affects immune responses in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and whether it stimulates programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1), a common checkpoint of immune cell response, which will provide guidance for future research efforts to help treat PDAC.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Selina Vickery

Selina Vickery

Mentor – Leah Pyter



Project – The Effects of Voluntary Exercise on Chemotherapy-Induced Anxiety-Like Behavior



Summary – Determine and understand the brain biology underlying the effects of exercise on anxiety behaviors experienced after chemotherapy. Our best-guess mechanism is that chemotherapy causes a hyper-reactive immune system in the brain. We will investigate this mechanism by comparing mice treated with chemotherapy and running wheels for exercise to control mice without chemotherapy and/or wheels. Understanding these mechanisms is essential for the potential development of more cost-effective and translational approaches to treating anxiety in cancer patients and survivors.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Maxwell Wilberding

Mentor – Sameek Roychowdhury



Project – Characterizing the Role of OLFM4 in Cholangiocarcinoma



Summary – Study the human olfactomedin 4 (OLFM4) gene in cholangiocarcinoma, a widely inoperable and deadly disease with few viable chemotherapy treatment options. Through characterizing the genetic landscape of OLFM4 in cholangiocarcinoma, we can help develop novel therapies to be used to improve treatment and survival for patients suffering from one of the deadliest cancers.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 45 miles



Tiffany Yu

Tiffany Yu

Mentor – Richard Fishel



Project – Visualizing Mismatch Repair in Real Time and in Live Cells



Summary – Develop imaging and tracking technology to examine the function of the MutS and MutL genes – core components of the DNA mismatch repair machinery – as single molecules in live cells. The ultimate goal is to transition to imaging the identical human mismatch repair components in real time and in live human cells.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Virtual rider



Meihui (Mia) Zhang

Mentor – Jonathan Song



Project – Understanding the Biological Basis of Alternating Electric Field Therapy on Breast Cancer Cells



Summary – Investigate the effect of extrinsically applied alternating fields (EFs) on a molecule that plays a critical role in the process of metastasis in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) in order to advance our understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms of alternating EF therapy, also known as tumor treating fields (TTFs), which is an emerging noninvasive treatment modality in oncology.



2019 Pelotonia Participant – Virtual rider




2018 Undergraduate Student Pelotonia Fellows

Elaina Boyle

missing photo

Mentor – Karin Musier-Forsyth 



Project – Development of a Programmable Ribonuclease Capable of Cleaving Metastasis-Inducing Pathogenic RNA



Summary –  Develop a programmable RNase based on a highly specific yeast AGO and then identify the accessible and targetable sites on the metastasis-associated lung adenocarcinoma transcript 1 (MALAT1) using this newly established technology. This strategy will lead to the development of a highly efficient and cost-effective programmable ribonuclease capable of cleaving pathogenic RNAs such as MALAT1. 



Karthik Chakravarthy

Karthik Chakravarthy

Mentor – Lawrence Kirschner



Project – Defining How BRAF and NRAS Mutations Cooperate With UVA and UVB Light to Initiate Melanoma



Summary – Use mouse models to determine the efficacy of common UVB filters in preventing melanoma in order to improve our understanding of the mechanisms behind UVA-induced melanoma formation and aid in the formulation of effective melanoma preventatives.



Watch as Karthik shares more details about his research project.



Amanda Deighen

Amanda Deighen

Mentor – Monica Venere



Project – Targeting FACT to Radiosensitize Glioblastoma Cancer Stem Cells



Summary – Monitor the impact of FACT inhibition on the ability of CSCs to repair DNA damage as monitored by immunofluorescence. If the treatment of FACT inhibition in conjunction with irradiation renders positive data, this would provide incentive to further research FACT inhibition via curaxin-137 in conjunction with irradiation in mouse models and as a potential combination treatment for GBM.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Watch as Amanda shares more details about her research project.



Aastha Dhakal

missing photo

Mentor – Christin Burd



Project – Investigating Signaling and Gene Expression Between Melanoma-Common and -Uncommon NRAS Mutations



Summary – Determine functional differences between NRAS mutations commonly found in melanoma and NRAS mutations found in other cancers to discover potential targets for therapies specific to NRAS-driven melanoma.



Kelly Dubay

Kelly Dubay

Mentor – Zobeida Cruz-Monserrate 



Project – Effects of Physical Activity on the Adipose Tissue Microenvironment That Impact Pancreas Cancer



Summary – Study the role of the physical activity-induced, anti-inflammatory effect in pancreatic tumors and its relation to the changing adipose tissue microenvironment. These findings will help suggest possible treatment options that could mimic the effects that physical activity has on preventing pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) growth and provide insights in determining the mechanism responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects of physical activity on PDAC.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 45 miles



Watch as Kelly shares more details about her research project.



Kathryn Duncan

Kathryn Duncan

Mentor – Jeffrey Parvin



Project – BRCA1-WWOX Axis in DSB Break Repair



Summary – Initiate a double-strand break (DBS) in known sequences of DNA using a CRISPR-Cas9 cassette with sgRNAs in the presence and absence of WWOX, and then analyze the differences in sequences following repair.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Watch as Kathryn shares more details about her research project.



Gabrielle Ernst

Gabrielle Ernst

Mentor – Aharon Freud



Project – Identifying the Mechanism of How Acute Myeloid Leukemia Disrupts Human Innate Lymphoid Cell Development



Summary – The method by which acute myeloid leukemia (AML) affects helper innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), and in turn might influence the AML microenvironment, are currently unknown. By determining this mechanism, we can ultimately design improved immune-based therapies for AML patients and reveal ample rationale to study human helper ILC development.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Watch as Gabrielle shares more details about her research project.



Jared Fehlman

Jared Fehlman

Mentor – Tsonwin Hai



Project – The Role of Stress-Inducible Gene ATF3 in Establishing the Pre-Metastatic Niche



Summary Develop a better understanding of the mechanisms behind cancer metastasis, as well as how stressors such as chemotherapy can create pro-metastasis effects, by researching the role of ATF3 in pre-metastatic niche formation.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 45 miles



Watch as Jared shares more details about his research project.



Browning Haynes

Browning Haynes

Mentor – Leah Pyter



Project – The Role of Microglia in Chemotherapy-Induced Fatigue



Summary – Investigate the changes in neuroinflammation in an in vivo mouse model with the introduction of chemotherapy and then determine the effects of chemotherapy on sickness behavior. The overall goal is to find a potential relationship between microglial activation and chemotherapy-induced fatigue.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Watch as Browning shares more details about her research project.



Andrew Hu

Andrew Hu

Mentor – Terence Williams



ProjectWEE-1 Kinase Inhibitor AZD-1775 Radiosensitizes Esophageal Cancer Cells to Radiotherapy



Summary – Analyze cell cycle changes with flow cytometry and detect alterations of cell cycle regulator proteins to determine the effects that the drug AZD-1775 has on radiotherapy treatment for esophageal cancer.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 35 miles



Watch as Andrew shares more details about his research project.



Ali Lahooti

Ali Lahooti

Mentor – Zobeida Cruz-Monserrate



Project – The Role of Increased Physical Activity in Pancreatic Cancer Development



Summary – Study the mechanistic benefits that increased physical activity might have on preventing pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and tumor development.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Bailey Lucas

Bailey Lucas

Mentor – Ruben Petreaca 



Project – Genetic Analysis of Skb1 Function in DNA Double-Strand Break Repair



Summary – Investigate the function of the methyltransferase Skb1 in DNA double-strand break repair to better understand how DNA damage is repaired in living cells.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 100 miles



Watch as Bailey shares more details about her research project.



Rohan Makhijani

Rohan Makhijani

Mentor – Steve Clinton



Project – Impact of AR-42 to Enhance the Effect of Exercise in the Prevention of Cachexia in the ApcMin+ Model



Summary – Investigate whether the treatment of cancer-induced cachexia with AR-42 in combination with endurance exercise will prevent a decline in lean mass and skeletal muscle function. The results of this study will aid in developing a strategy to prevent muscle wasting in cachectic patients of various malignancies, therefore reducing the risk of treatment-related health effects.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 55 miles



Watch as Rohan shares more details about his research project.



Riley Mullins

Riley Mullins

Mentor – Christopher Coss



Project – Canonical and Variant Androgen Receptor as a Therapeutic Target in Hepatocellular Carcinoma



Summary – Research the role of a protein called the androgen receptor in liver cancer to uncover new therapies that may provide patients with a better quality of life and perhaps halt or reverse liver cancer progression.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 55 miles



Watch as Riley shares more details about his research project.



Shelby Naegele

missing photo

Mentor – Jian-Qiu Wu



Project – The Roles of Rga7’s Rho-GAP Domain and F-BAR Domain During Cytokinesis



Summary – Study the roles of of Rga7's Rho-GAP domain and F-BAR domain to provide insight into the localization and membrane binding of F-BAR proteins and how this binding to the membrane is critical for their function within the cell.



Julia Sabella

Julia Sabella

Mentor – William Carson



Project – The Role of Bromodomain 4 (BRD4) on the Activation and Expansion of Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells in the Tumor Microenvironment



Summary – By silencing Bromodomain 4 (BRD4) in breast cancer cell lines, it will reduce the production of MDSC-promoting cytokins, leading to impaired MDSC generation and expansion, and underscoring the potential for BRD4 inhibitors to be utilized to improve checkpoint inhibitor therapy response.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 25 miles



Watch as Julia shares more details about her research project.



Luke Scarberry

Luke Scarberry

Mentor – William Carson



Project – Effect of Bruton’s Tyrosine Kinase (BTK) Inhibitors on Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cell Migration and Adhesion



Summary – Develop novel myeloid-derived suppressor cell depletion/deactivation strategies that can be quickly translated to the clinical setting to improve the effectiveness of immune-based therapies.



2018 Pelotonia Participant – Rider: 45 miles



Watch as Luke shares more details about his research project.



Allen Zhang

Allen Zhang

Mentor – Sarmila Majumder



Project – Role of STAT3 in Promoting Precancerous Changes in Abruptly Involuted Mouse Mammary Glands



Summary – Study the effects of STAT3 deletion on collagen deposition, inflammatory response and the distribution of epithelial subpopulation in the AI mammary glands using immunohistochemistry and florescence-activated cell sorting.



Watch as Allen shares more details about his research project.

Previous undergraduate student Pelotonia fellows

View All

Application Cycles

Spring: Jan. 15-Feb. 15


Undergraduate
Graduate
Postdoctoral
Professional


Awards begin June 1 or mid-August


Autumn: Sept. 15-Oct. 15


Graduate
Postdoctoral
Professional


Awards begin January 1 or February 1

Apply Now

Please enter a keyword (i.e. Name, Research Interest) or choose a Research Program

OR

Please enter a keyword (i.e. Name, Cancer Type) or choose a Principle Investigator

OR

Find a Scientific Publication

Contact

Marie Gibbons

Pelotonia Fellowship Manager


Phone: 614-685-1960
marie.gibbons@osumc.edu