The Ohio State University at Marion

Marion campus junior zoology major earns $12K cancer research fellowship

April 18, 2018
Marion campus junior zoology major earns $12K cancer research fellowship

For the first time, an Ohio State Marion student is receiving a Pelotonia Fellowship to perform undergraduate cancer research. Friday the 13th brought good news to Bailey Lucas, a 20-year-old senior zoology major, when she was notified that she would be receiving the $12,000 fellowship.

“I was just elated,” she said shortly after opening the e-mail informing her of the award.

The grant is part of the Pelotonia process in which over eight thousand bicycle riders raise money for cancer research at Ohio State. Some of those funds go to graduate and undergraduate students conducting cancer research under Ohio State professors.

Lucas, who was home-schooled in Ashley, Ohio before coming to The Ohio State University at Marion, carries a 3.88 grade point average into her senior year.

“She is very driven,” said her mentor, Dr. Ruben Petreaca, assistant professor of molecular genetics at Ohio State Marion. “Basically, she wants to succeed, that’s what I see in her. And she wants to go for the top and that’s kind of how I am too. If I’m not hitting the top, then I have to do better. I love this, we can do this,” he tells his students.

Petreaca’s research, in which Lucas is participating along with eight other Ohio State Marion students, involves chromosome breakage and repair in yeast cells. The DNA repair mechanisms in yeast are similar to those in humans. The team’s research focuses on the circumstances in which chromosomes are replaced accurately or inaccurately. It is the inaccurate repairs that can cause cells to divide indiscriminately, which is the definition of cancer.

“He’s super enthusiastic. He really loves his work and it’s very contagious,” said Lucas. “From the outside looking in, yeast is not that interesting. But, once you start realizing what you’re doing, it’s very cool to see your results,” she added.

Dr. Petreaca shared that he is more excited about Lucas receiving her fellowship than he is about a recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant worth $157,000 that he received for his research.

“I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before,” he said of his 15 years teaching college students.

“I really encouraged her,” said Dr. Petreaca. “I think what students need is motivation and inspiration—letting them know they actually can do this.”

Lucas was one of 18 students across Ohio State to receive a Pelotonia Fellowhip. Marie Gibbons, Pelotonia Fellowship Manager, said the review committee consists of seventeen Ohio State scientists who try to “find the very best science” among student submissions. In addition to the students’ work, the committee also evaluates the strength of their mentors and training plans.

“We are trying to train the next generation of career researchers,” said Gibbons.

Both Lucas and her research mentor, Dr. Petreaca, have joined Ohio State Marion’s peloton, Team Marion, in this year’s Pelotonia ride. Each has committed to ride 100 miles from Columbus to Gambier on August 4th and raise at least $2,000 each for the Pelotonia effort.

This is the tenth year for Ohio State’s unique bike ride fundraiser. To date, over $157 million has been raised for Oho State cancer research through Pelotonia.

“It is wonderful to have some of those dollars coming back to Marion through Bailey’s fellowship—and to have both her and Ruben participating in the ride,” said Dave Claborn, Team Marion captain.