Research society awards students

For professors, acceptance of a research proposal may be a walk
in the park. For three Saint Louis University students, however,
the honor is a prestigious one.

Graduate assistant Bryan Fuchs, Parks College of Engineering and
Aviation senior Matt Wood and Parks junior Matthew Demmer were
selected from more than 1,300 applicants worldwide to receive a
grant from Sigma Xi, a non-profit research society with more than
70,000 members.

“My research proposal focuses on an amino acid transporter
called ASCT2 that we believe is essential for human liver cancer
cell survival,” Fuchs said. “Our initial findings will be published
in the current issue of the American Journal of Physiology (March
2004). We are currently targeting this transporter as a potential
selective therapy for hepatocelluar carcinoma.”

Fuchs’ grant was for $700. It will allow Fuchs to “explore the
mechanisms linking cancer cell growth and survival to ASCT2
expression and function.”

After graduating from SLU in 1999 with a bachelor of science in
biology, Fuchs worked for Incyte Genomics for a year. He has
returned to SLU to get his doctorate degree, which he should
accomplish in May 2005.

“Scientific research is great because it poses new questions
everyday that constantly challenge the mind,” Fuchs said.

Wood received a $1,000 grant, the most an undergraduate can
receive.

“It is a great honor to receive the award because of the
recognition it brings to the [biomedical engineering] department
and SLU and my research advisor, Dr. (Rebecca Kuntz) Willits, since
[they] are responsible for the success of my proposal,” Wood said.
“The grant reinforces the great education I am receiving, since the
proposal reflects the knowledge I have obtained.”

Wood’s proposal, “Electrical Stimulation on Protein Patterned
Surfaces Affects DRG Neurite Extension” focused on “a detailed
exploration into aspects needed or desired in a nerve guidance
channel, a conduit used to bridge damaged axons in nerve
cells.”

The nerve guidance channel could possibly be an alternative
method to surgery in repairing nerve damage, though it is not yet
being used, Wood commented.

A St. Louis native, Wood chose to go into BME because of his
interest in biology, chemistry and physics. “I also read about it
in one of my math books in high school as an emerging job,” Wood
said.

After graduation, Wood plans to further his study in BME by
going to graduate school.

Demmer received $263 from Sigma Xi.

“My grant-in-aid of research is significant because I now have
more room to work with my project and can make more samples to
test,” Demmer said. “I did not really expect to receive the grant
because only 20 percent of applicants receive any funding at
all.”

Led by his research advisor, Marcel Roy, Ph.D., Demmer’s
proposal was titled, “Spontaneous Formation of Hydroxyapatite on
Alkali Treated Titanium and Its Alloys.”

His tests with hydroxyapatite could help with total hip
replacement surgery.

Hydroxyapatite is more compatible with the bone and forms a
better bond than titanium alone, Demmer said.

Demmer, of Cedar Falls, Iowa, also plans on going to graduate
school after SLU, aspiring to get a master’s degree in biomedical
engineering and research orthopedics, which deals with injuries or
disorders of the skeletal system and associated muscles, joints and
ligaments.

“I chose biomedical engineering because I was not sure if I
wanted to be a doctor or an engineer, so it seemed like a good mesh
between the two,” Demmer said.