University of Scranton Students Present Research at Annual ASCB Conference

March 3, 2015

Four University of Scranton biochemistry, cell and molecular biology majors recently presented their research at the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) annual conference in Philadelphia. From left are: George R. Gomez, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at the University, who co-authored two of the studies; and student presenters Nicole McAndrew, Grace O’Neill, Alice Chen-Liaw and Christa Musto.

Four University students recently presented their research at the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) annual conference in Philadelphia. The students, Grace O’Neill of Avoca, Christa Musto of Forty Fort, Nicole McAndrew of Archbald and Alice Chen-Liaw of Morris Plains, New Jersey, are all members of the University’s class of 2016.

The ASCB, a professional society of more than 9,000 scientists from around the globe, is dedicated to advancing scientific discovery and promoting professional development.

O’Neill’s and Musto’s research poster presentation, titled “Extracellular stimuli regulate cell differentiation and acquisition of functional
properties in cultured embryonic chick olfactory neurons,” was co-authored with George R. Gomez, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at the University. Their study tested if factors external to the body, such as odors, contribute to the specialization of cells as much as endogenous compounds, substances native to the body, do. Endogenous compounds often direct cells to specialize according to their function. The students exposed chick olfactory neurons to different odors and found that external factors also play a significant role in cell development.

O’Neil and Musto are biochemistry, cell and molecular biology majors at the University.

McAndrew’s research poster presentation, titled “Retinoic Acid Induces Neuroblastoma Differentiation by Activation of CRABPII” and co-authored with Dr. Gomez, investigated retinoic acid’s role as a chemotherapeutic agent in cancer treatment. Recent evidence suggests that a cancer cell will either proliferate or differentiate depending on the pathway retinoic acid (RA) takes within the cell. Their results, that RA concentration determines the differentiation pathway, provide insight into cancer cell differentiation and RA’s potential use as a cancer-treating agent.

McAndrew is a biology major and was awarded a Presidential Summer Fellowship by the University in 2014 for her research.

Chen-Liaw’s research poster presentation was titled “The effect of interleukin 1β on VLDL secretion in steatotic hepatocytes during
defatting” and was co-authored with G. Yarmush and F. Berthiaume, of the Biomedical Engineering Department at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. She worked on this project during a summer research fellowship at Rutgers University. The study focused on the effect that interleukin 1β, a protein, has on reducing the fat content of livers. Steatotic or fatty livers complicate liver transplantations. Chen-Liaw also presented research at the ASCB last year.

Chen-Liaw is a biochemistry, cell and molecular biology major and member of the University’s Honors Program. 

The four students participate in research in Dr. Gomez’ laboratory at the University.

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