Biology major and pre-med student Lael Papenfuse earned high honors with her research project, “AKAP7 and Calcineurin Control CaM Kinases and Cell Growth,” at the 24th annual M.J. Murdock College Science Research Conference in Vancouver, Wash., as her presentation was selected the top poster within the event’s Cell and Molecular Biology category.
According to biology professor John Schmitt, in whose laboratory Papenfuse worked this past year, this was the first time a George Fox student earned a ribbon of any kind at the Murdock Conference, held this year at the Vancouver Hilton Hotel Nov. 5-7. “I am really proud of Lael and the other students on my cancer-fighting team,” Schmitt said. “I’m really pleased that our students have already been able to put our new confocal microscope to good use, as Lael was able to show that these two proteins may be contributing to cancer.”
Papenfuse’s project highlighted several new discoveries she made in the lab this year. Research in the Schmitt laboratory focuses on the biology of cancer, and Papenfuse made several unique findings, including how the hormone estrogen utilizes molecules inside of breast cancer cells to promote cancer growth. Her work specifically focused on two proteins called CaM Kinase and Calcineurin, and she showed for the first time that they cooperate to control two types of breast cancer. The research was conducted using a variety of biochemical and molecular techniques as well as the new Leica SPE-TCS confocal microscope the university acquired this year.
Papenfuse, from Battle Ground, Wash., and a member of the university’s women’s soccer team, is planning to continue her work next summer with Schmitt. The research was supported through several sources of funding, including a Richter Scholar grant to Papenfuse and individual grants to Schmitt, including the Murdock Trust.