Lauren Frank is the latest to earn a prestigious research fellowship from the James Comprehensive Cancer Center
Ohio State Marion Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Dr. Renee Bouley first met student Lauren Frank in her chemistry 1210 course as a freshman. Bouley immediately noticed her dedication to academics and work-ethic in the lab, which led her to recruit Frank to work in her research lab. Now entering her junior year, Frank was named the campus’s third Pelotonia Fellow in the past four years.
The Pelotonia Undergraduate Fellowship Program provides one-year research fellowships to the best and brightest Ohio State undergraduate students who want to help cure cancer. Undergraduate fellows are paid a $12,000 annual stipend to work on their independent research projects. Competition for the fellowship is fierce. Each year, approximately 80 undergraduate applications are submitted.
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.
The bright-eyed young scholar from local Pleasant High School is now involved in real cancer research. Research that hopefully will one day have a profound impact on humanity.
Frank’s fellowship officially began June 1, 2021 and is offered through The Ohio State University James Comprehensive Cancer Center, but the research is carried out on the Marion campus. The zoology major’s research project, which she is working on with research mentor Dr. Renee Bouley is titled, “Determining how a chromatin remodeling protein interacts with RAD 52.”
In lay terms, Frank said, “My project is studying proteins that are involved in DNA damage repair. RAD 52 is a protein that influences which pathway might be taken when DNA is being repaired.”
“There are different repair pathways. Some lead to more errors when DNA is repaired, and some are error free. When influenced to an error prone pathway overtime, the errors will build up and potentially lead to cancer,” she said.
Dr. Bouley shared that the research would help them understand how specific proteins work cooperatively to repair a DNA break through either an error-free or error-prone pathway.
“The improper repair of breaks leads to intra-chromosomal deletions,” explained Bouley, “which leads to genetic instability and cancer. This research will shed light on how the cell decides which pathway to use to repair DNA breaks and why deletions happen.”
Franks explained that her work will help determine if there is any interaction between them. It will look like two proteins stuck together as opposed to smaller proteins. We come to the computer and model them to determine how our protein interaction looks and determine what is happening.
“Looking for proteins that bind. Depending on which protein binds to another gives you the indication of whether the DNA damage repair is error prone or error free,” she added.
After the year is over, Frank shared, she will do posters and presentations on the group’s findings. The research results will be publicized. Other labs will likely continue working with this research.
“Depending on results of our research,” she said, “this could lead to expanded research by others and hopefully one day the development of new treatment for cancer. All in all, we are all looking for the cure for cancer, or at least a better treatment.”
“In late March I found out. I got the email. It said you are now part of the greatest team ever,” said Frank. “I told my mom, told everyone.”
“I am definitely super blessed to have this opportunity. Dr. Bouley and Dr. Petreaca said it was a super prestigious honor to get this fellowship. It has just been an amazing opportunity so far. I can’t wait to see what else is in store and what else I get to do,” said Frank.
Frank said that 2020 Ohio State Marion Hannah Hylton Pelotonia Fellow, helped her out with writing the application and gave her insights on what to expect.
She knew attending to Ohio State Marion would allow for closer relationships with the faculty, but the experience has exceeded her expectations.
“When I graduated, I didn’t expect any of this to be happening,” said Frank. “Ohio State Marion is a great way to have a small community and great opportunities like the Pelotonia Fellowship and research lab.”
“Dr. Renee Bouley is my main mentor and Dr. Ruben Petreaca is my co-mentor on this project,” said Frank.
In the lab, said Frank, we have two other projects my co-workers are working in. In December 2020, Bouley and Petreaca suggested working on this project and to apply to Pelotonia.
According to Dr. Bouley, Ohio State Marion Assistant Professor of Molecular Genetics, Dr. Ruben Petreaca was the catalyst for getting others involved in the research project and for mentoring many of the campus’s past Pelotonia Fellowship winners.
“Dr. Petreaca has been investigating the process of DNA double-stand break repair for the last 5 years at Ohio State Marion,” Bouley explained, “adding that her involvement in the project began in the past year.
“We (Dr. Ruben Petreaca, Dr. Ryan Yoder, and Dr. Renee Bouley) received a grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that started in May of 2021 to study several proteins involved in the repair process,” said Bouley.
Bouley went on to explain that Franks would be focused on performing the biochemistry and computational modeling aspects of the grant proposal.
The NCI grant will allow Frank’s fellowship to potentially be extended through her senior year, Bouley said.
“The NCI grant that funds this project is for 2 years and we plan to have Lauren continue working on this project during her junior and senior years and write an undergraduate thesis,” said Bouley.
Faculty and student researchers are also encouraged to take part in the Pelotonia ride annually, which 100% of all participant-raised dollars go toward cancer research.
Frank and Bouley are not only fighting to find a cure through their research, the two will also participate in the 2021 Pelotonia cycling event this August. In the first twelve years, the Pelotonia community has raised over $217 million for innovative cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“I had heard of Pelotonia before but never took part in the ride. I am excited to be doing that this year,” she said. “I lost my grandma on my dad’s side in 2014. I want to be active, walk hike or bike 14 miles per month to honor her.” Frank’s grandmother lost her life to kidney cancer.
“I am so honored to have this opportunity and be part of this team,” she concluded.
If you would like to donate to Frank’s fund her Pelotonia rider profile visit: https://pelotonia.org/profile/LF731145
If you would like to donate to Dr. Bouley’s Pelotonia rider profile visit: https://pelotonia.org/profile/RB724316?tab=my-profile