Biology prof enlists former students, now scientists, for cancer biology lectures

Tuesday May 19, 2020Roger Coda
Screenshot of Lindsay McCullough, M.D., leading a Blackboard Collaborate session.
Screenshot of Lindsay McCullough, M.D., leading a Blackboard Collaborate session.

Students enrolled in an upper-level biology course connected with former students of Department of Biology Assistant Professor Nicholas Quintyne who are now working in diverse fields of cancer biology, in a series of Blackboard Collaborate sessions in the last five weeks of the spring semester.

“The talks touched on several diverse topics across cancer biology, both clinical and basic biological approaches: from looking at using fruit flies as models to studying multigenic alterations found in colon cancer to two different approaches on how the immune system can be trained to fight cancer to a hardcore examination of GTP binding proteins' signaling pathways to how our sleep patterns and habits can affect our lives and shift work itself is a carcinogen,” Dr. Quintyne explained.

Four of the five speakers took an advanced course in cancer biology from Quintyne and all served in his laboratory as undergraduate students seeking degrees in biology. “So not only do the speakers talk about their work, but also a bit of how they got to where they are from having been in classes just like the one the students are in,” Quintyne noted.

One of the five lecturers, Maria Quintero, received a B.S. in Molecular Genetics at Fredonia in 2018 and is a Ph.D. candidate at Florida State University. Her lecture was "Modeling the Genetic Complexity of Colorectal Cancer in Drosophila."

The remaining presenters – all former students of Dr. Quintyne when he taught at Florida Atlantic University – their current employment or educational status and lecture title included:

Christina Turn, M.D., Resident in Pediatric Medicine, Stanford University, "CAR-T for Dummies: A Primer for the Non-Oncologist."

Nisha Nagarsheth, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, "Cancer Immunotherapy."

Rachel Turn, Ph.D. candidate, Emory University, "How I Made Cancer: ARF GTPases and their Regulators Mediate Interpathway Communication."

Lindsay McCullough, M.D., Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Sleep Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, “The Empire Sleeps in the Back.”

Lecturers gave an overview of their respective field as well as their own research on topics. They answered questions about the information they shared as well as their journey from taking classes taught by Quintyne to becoming successful scientists.

Quintyne has brought in guest speakers to speak to students enrolled in BIOL 450/BIOL 550 Special Topics: Cancer Biology the last three times the course has been offered.

The hour-long talks were enthusiastically embraced by students and generated lots of questions, Quintyne reported. Students are required to write reflections on the talks – not summaries but really what they thought of each individual talk, Quintyne added.

“There were quite a few comments about how talks had opened up their eyes to fields that they did not even know existed. A few comments from students about how this had really cemented their thoughts about pursuing a field related to cancer when they leave Fredonia and (hopefully) enter medical school or graduate school.” - Dr. Nicholas Quintyne

“There were quite a few comments about how talks had opened up their eyes to fields that they did not even know existed,” Quintyne observed, such as chronobiology. “A few comments from students about how this had really cemented their thoughts about pursuing a field related to cancer when they leave Fredonia and (hopefully) enter medical school or graduate school.”

Department of Biology Associate Professor Scott Ferguson attended this year’s first three lectures, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Andy Karafa attended two lectures.

Quintyne makes a point to always invite former students of his to serve as guest speakers. While Quintyne acknowledged that he would be happy to bring in “bigger names in the field,” he recognizes “a level of connectedness that comes from these professionals being ones who have had very similar experiences to the students currently enrolled.

“The more times I teach it at Fredonia, the more Fredonia alumni I hope to have to call on,” Quintyne said.

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