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Gibson earns Pelotonia scholarship for work with cancer suppression gene

Ohio State senior neuroscience major Louis Gibson was recently named a Pelotonia Undergraduate Scholar by The James Comprehensive Cancer Center at Ohio State.  The award is the sixth such honor since 2018 for Ohio State students working with Ohio State Marion faculty mentors.

The Pelotonia Undergraduate Scholars Program provides a one-year research award to the best and brightest Ohio State University undergraduate students who want to help cure cancer.  The scholarship pays Gibson 12-14k through the upcoming academic year to continue his research.

A graduate of Buckeye Valley High School in Delaware, began his academic career at Ohio State Marion, before recently transitioning to the Columbus campus to complete his neuroscience major before beginning medical school.

According to Gibson, his project investigated a DNA replication gene (polymerase E), which is known as a tumor suppression gene.  Mutations in this gene have already been linked to a variety of diseases and cancers.

"This polymerase is something that every cell requires for survival," said Gibson. "Mutations affect primarily colorectal cancers.  When the gene is mutated, it can no longer suppress colorectal cancer formation."

Gibson shared, that the team of Ohio State researchers he is working with is trying to find the different mutations that would arise in this gene in colorectal cancers and compare them to colorectal cancers that do not have polE mutations to find out how significant these mutations are for cellular transformation and immortalization.

"It is quantitative analysis," said Gibson.  "We generally just run through public sourced patient data and compare the information.  The website we mainly use is Catalogue of Somatic Mutations in Cancer, (COSMIC).  

"They tell us whether the patient has a mutated gene or not.  We compare it to others with a non-mutated gene and try to determine whether there is a correlation between that and the cancer we are studying," said Gibson.

According to Gibson they have been working on it for about a year.  We took a pause to allow me to study for the M-CAT.  

He shared that he hoped to complete the analysis of during his Pelotonia fellowship tenure.

Gibson shared that the research he is part of has far reaching implications toward fighting cancer early.  Allowing doctors to predetermine whether these people would be predisposed to get colorectal cancer.  

"If this is implemented to have a strong correlation, they can get pre-screened and help prevent formation of cancers before they have spread," Gibson explained.


Gibson, who spent 2 years at Ohio State Marion before transitioning to the Columbus campus, plans to graduate spring semester 2024 with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and hopes to go to medical school.  

Gibson feels being part of such a prestigious scholarship and research initiative will help him when it comes to furthering his education and being accepted into a top-notch medical school.

"I think personally it will improve them greatly.  It is a limited scholar program.  A lot of schools look for students that have these prestigious scholarships."


Bald gentleman in glasses points to computer screen while well dress student listens

Gibson credits much of his success to faculty mentors Dr. Jing Wang, Ph.D. in cancer biology research at the James Comprehensive Cancer Center and Dr. Ruben Petreaca, an associate professor of molecular genetics at Ohio State Marion, who has mentored several previous Pelotonia Scholarship recipients on the Marion campus. Gibson is listed as co-investigator of the research along with Dr. Petreaca and Dr. Wang.

"If I had not attended Ohio State Marion, I would not have met Dr. Petreaca and this opportunity may have never happened," said Gibson.


"He taught me basically everything I know. Often it would be us in our research meetings discussing research first and then talking about life and what I wanted to do with my future, said Gibson.

"The fact that he wanted to help me with what I needed really meant a lot," he said, "because he not only showed me what I needed to do, but also taught me."  

"I truly believe without his guidance I wouldn't be as hardworking, or where I am today," added Gibson.

In ten years after Gibson hopes to graduate medical school and anticipates he will be in his residency as a neurosurgeon.  

"Hopefully I get residency in Colorado.  Most of my family is in Colorado and with skiing and other extreme sports there are a lot of traumatic brain injuries and I want to help where I can," he said. "The Vail Valley has a great neurosurgery medical center.  I volunteered a lot of hours and got to know what they do and what they are expected do."

Professor Petreaca shared that he first met Gibson while he was a student at Ohio State Marion. He was introduced to Petreaca by Ohio State Marion Dean and Director Greg Rose as a driven young man with a passion for science. 

"Dean Rose was not wrong. Louis is driven, smart, independent and has a passion for knowledge and scientific discovery. His aim is to succeed in every endeavor and is clear that he works hard to accomplish his goals," Petreaca shared.

Petreaca shared that he and his colleagues, who have interacted with him, have been impressed by his ability to remain focused on the project. 

"Often, undergraduate students get sidetracked with classes and other activities and tend to put their research projects on the backburner, but not Louis," added Petreaca. "He has remained focused even throughout the semester. It is clear to us that he puts a lot of time into doing independent research in addition to excelling in his classes." 

One of Louise’s strengths is initiative, said Petreaca. He sends emails setting meetings to discuss his findings and asks questions about future directions. 

"Usually in our interaction with undergraduate students we must remind them to complete tasks on time," Petreaca said. "Not so with Louis. We can rest assured that he is working on his project and that he will check with us when he needs advice." 

"In this sense," added Petreaca, "he behaves more like a graduate student than an undergraduate. This speaks to Louis’s independence and ability to “think on his feet”.

"I put Louis easily in the top 5% of undergraduate students I have interacted with, and I am convinced that he will become a leading medical scientist,” said Petreaca. 


Based on Gibson's family history and accolades as he approaches graduation, Gibson hopes to continue his studies with The Ohio State University.  According to Gibson, "being a Buckeye is in his blood."

"Both my grandparents worked at Ohio State.  My uncle attended Ohio State and got a position to work at the Wexner Medical Center," he said. "Becoming a third generation Buckeye would be awesome.  My mom finished her degree at Ohio State and dad also attended for a short time." 

Gibson shared that he fell in love with the look and feel of Ohio State Marion.  Not only did he save money attending an Ohio State regional campus, but he has excelled in the classroom, and built a strong foundation for his future education and his career as a medical doctor.

Gibson's advisors suggest applying to 18 to 20 medical schools.  Ohio State is of course his top choice.