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Biology major Shayaan Rasheed named 2022 Pelotonia Research Fellow

Inspired by loved ones who've fought cancer, Ohio State Marion biology major Shayaan Rasheed intends to honor their struggles through his research efforts towards working to eliminate cancer and its pervasive effects. Rasheed becomes the fourth Ohio State Marion recipient of Ohio State’s highly prestigious Pelotonia Undergraduate Fellowship in the past seven years.

Rasheed was awarded a $12,000 annual stipend to work on the project titled, Investigating the inhibition of PRMT5 through biochemical and computational approaches. These funds allow him to fulfill his financial responsibilities as a student, while gaining valuable experience in moving the field of cancer research forward.

Rasheed was one of a select number of students university-wide to receive the 2022 Pelotonia Undergraduate Fellowship Award through The James: The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, which provides research fellowships to the best and brightest Ohio State University undergraduate students who are invested in cancer research.

Rasheed’s research mentors include Ohio State Marion Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Dr. Renee Bouley and Ohio State Marion Associate Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Ryan Yoder.

Rasheed described the complex study in lay terms. “In our bodies, our cells are constantly maturing and dividing. We call the process by which our cells multiply the cell cycle. To regulate the level of cell division and protect our bodies from having mutated cells replicate, our cell cycle has several different checkpoints which make sure the cell undergoing division is safe and mutant free,” Rasheed explained. “These checkpoints are often regulated by the proteins in our bodies, so when a protein is mutated, these checkpoints can fail,” he said.

“This causes uncontrolled cell division which, by definition, is cancer,” Rasheed explained.

According to Rasheed, the protein that the team at Ohio State Marion is studying, protein arginine methyltransferase 5 (PRMT5), is one of these regulatory proteins and has been observed to often be mutated in several different cancers.

“So, the focus of project is understanding exactly how the regulatory activity of protein PRMT5 is affected when cancer related mutations have been applied to it, as well as working to computationally develop a unique inhibitor that can directly assist in getting PRMT5 under control when it has already experienced cancer mutation,” he said.

Rasheed explained that his interest in working as lab assistant for Dr. Bouley from the first day he stepped on campus is what helped bring the opportunity to take part in cancer research in to focus for him.

“I approached Dr. Bouley on the first day of classes my freshman year and inquired about a research position in her lab. Coming into the semester, I had already done some digging on what sort of research Dr. Bouley was doing and it intrigued me,” said Rasheed, “so I asked to join.”

After having done well both in her general chemistry 1 class and Dr. Melissa Petreaca’s biology 1113 class, Dr. Bouley felt he had the skills and knowledge necessary to join the lab and began training in the spring of his freshman year. Which began Rasheed’s cancer research journey.

Rasheed shared his belief that, though no golden bullet has been made yet for cancer, all the work the team at Ohio State Marion does at the end of the day will push the field of cancer research forward.

Research mentor Dr. Renee Bouley explained two key societal benefits they hope to see come to fruition from the team’s work is a better understanding of how the protein PRMT5 is involved in cancer and the development of potential future therapeutics.

“We will be using computational modeling to develop novel inhibitors of PRMT5, which could be used to treat cancer in the future,” said Bouley.

Beyond the true inspiring nature of the research Rasheed has been given the opportunity to participate in, he felt being named a Pelotonia Fellow was an incredible honor.

“The highly competitive and prestigious nature of this fellowship carries respect and validation for the best undergraduate cancer researchers at Ohio State. Beyond that, what means the most to me is how incredible an opportunity it has been being able to bring one of those few fellowships back to Ohio State Marion,” he said.

“There’s a great sense of pride on this campus for our Pelotonia Fellows. I speak for many of us in the example of Lauren Frank, our Pelotonia Fellow from last year and my lab mate, that despite her academic excellence and remarkable character, we all gained an additional level of respect and admiration for her once she received this fellowship,” said Rahseed.

Which, he explained, personally helped drive him at times to push beyond what he may have felt he was capable of. For Rasheed this unique opportunity also meant he was able to call himself a Pelotonia Fellow and join the elite alumni of fellows from Ohio State Marion that have paved the way before him.

“The moment I found out that I had received the fellowship was a special moment,” said Rahseed, “because I was able to validate the incredible educational experience and hard work, I’ve had these past 2 years. It certainly serves as the highlight of my undergraduate work thus far.”

Faculty mentor Dr. Ryan Yoder shared that, “for Shayaan it is an exciting opportunity, not just to represent Ohio State Marion as part of an organization as special as Pelotonia, but a chance to build on the foundation laid by past Pelotonia students from our campus and to continue to grow the culture of undergraduate research,” said Yoder.

“He is an incredibly bright, motivated student,” Yoder added, “who certainly has all the tools to thrive as a Pelotonia fellow.”

After graduating from Ohio State, Rasheed intends to pursue medical school to become a physician. Rasheed felt that due to the rising competitiveness of med school admissions it’s important to try and distinguish oneself among the plethora of applicants that apply every year.

“This fellowship will assist strongly in that matter due to its’ highly prestigious and competitive nature,” said Rasheed.

Dr. Ryan Yoder expressed a great sense of pride and accomplishment in not only Rasheed’s accomplishments and anticipated continued success as an undergraduate researcher, but also the nature of continued high level research opportunities derived from attending Ohio State Marion.

“First, our administration has put in the effort and resources to promote faculty research in the sciences over the course of the last decade, not the least of which is our Science & Engineering Building,” said Yoder.

“Our campus has both faculty mentors who are invested in guiding our students to be successful in pursuing these opportunities and students who are exceptionally talented and motivated to pursue extraordinary achievement as undergraduates,” he added.

Yoder felt much of the credit goes to Ohio State Marion Associate Professor of Molecular Genetics, Dr. Ruben Petreaca for establishing a connection between our campus and the James Cancer Center.

“Dr. Bouley, and I, have hopefully added in our collaboration to open even more doors for students to pursue different avenues of research to fight cancer,” Yoder said. “We’ve also had many faculty and staff who have been devoted participants in Pelotonia throughout the last several years. So, our campus is intimately familiar with the power of Pelotonia and how many lives it reaches through a variety of ways to fight cancer.”