Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 Introduces Cancer Research into the Undergraduate Laboratory, Publishes Novel Approach for Undergraduate Investigation of Gene Expression

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 recently published an article in the journal Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education highlighting a novel laboratory module that he developed for improving undergraduate student learning of gene expression.  This module, which is based on Dr. Hargadon’s research interests relating to melanoma, is currently used in his Biology 201 Genetics and Cell Biology course and teaches students several cutting edge techniques for investigating gene expression.  Specifically, over a 6-week period, students are exposed to both traditional and quantitative polymerase chain reaction technologies as well as flow cytometric assays as they investigate expression of the Tgfb1 gene in highly versus poorly tumorigenic melanomas at both the population and single-cell levels.  In the recently published study, Dr. Hargadon demonstrates the utility of this module in improving student learning of not only the process of gene expression but also of research techniques that may be employed for the experimental analysis of gene expression.  Since publication of this article, Dr. Hargadon has extended this laboratory exercise in his class such that upon completion of the module, students then develop their own cancer research projects in which they assess expression of a unique gene of interest that they hypothesize might contribute to melanoma progression through altered expression patterns.  Also since its publication, Dr. Hargadon’s laboratory module has also been implemented in a 300-level Biochemical Methods course at Bucknell University.

Dr. Hargadon’s article in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education can be accessed at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bmb.20958/abstract

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon, ’01 Publishes Invited Article on Melanoma Research in Leading Cancer Journal

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 recently published an Author’s View article in the journal OncoImmunology – the article highlights recent research on melanoma-associated dendritic cell dysfunction conducted in his laboratory at Hampden-Sydney College. Published by Taylor and Francis, OncoImmunology accepts high-profile submissions in the fundamental, translational, and clinical areas of tumor immunology and is one of the leading journals in the fields of both Immunology and Oncology. Following his recent publication on the induction of tissue-resident dendritic cell dysfunction by melanoma-derived factors in the journal Immunology and Cell Biology, Dr. Hargadon was invited by the Editor-in-Chief of OncoImmunology to publish an Author’s View article highlighting his recent work. Dr. Hargadon’s laboratory continues to investigate melanoma-associated immune dysfunction and the role of cancer-associated genes in promoting immune escape and tumor outgrowth. Increasing our understanding of these phenomena will lead to the design of improved immunotherapies and targeted therapies for the treatment of melanoma and other cancers.

Dr. Hargadon’s article may be accessed at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2162402X.2015.1069462

Travis Goodloe ’16 Receives Award for Cancer Research

Senior Biology major Travis Goodloe was recently awarded 1st Place in the poster competition for research he presented at the 2015 VA Branch Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.  Travis’ research, which he conducted in the laboratory of Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01, involved the development of a quantitative RT-PCR-based assay for detecting metastatic melanoma cells in tumor-draining lymph nodes.  His study provides a framework for future research aimed at investigating factors the promote lymph node invasion by melanoma, and the assay he developed may ultimately provide a useful diagnostic tool for assessing melanoma progression.  Travis’ poster earned the top honor from among 59 research posters presented by both undergraduate and graduate students from colleges and universities throughout the state.  Travis will attend medical school at the University of South Alabama following his graduation in 2016.

Travis Goodloe '16 presenting his award-winning research!

Travis Goodloe ’16 presenting his award-winning research!

H-SC Seniors Present Cancer Research at American Society for Microbiology State Meeting

On November 6, 2015, two Hampden-Sydney College senior Biology majors, Travis Goodloe and Jefferson Thompson, presented research they have been conducting on melanoma progression at the annual Virginia Branch Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Richmond, VA.  Working in the laboratory of Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01, Travis and Jefferson have been investigating factors that regulate melanoma growth and metastasis to regional lymph nodes.  In particular, Travis developed a highly sensitive assay for detecting melanoma cells within lymph nodes draining the skin and lungs, a site to which melanomas frequently metastasize.  In order to understand factors that potentially regulate melanoma growth and metastasis, Jefferson employed a CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing approach to knock out the Foxc2 gene in a mouse melanoma cell line.  FOXC2 is a transcription factor that regulates the expression of other genes within a cell, and this novel melanoma cell line lacking this molecule will be a useful tool for future studies that aim to investigate how the FOXC2 protein promotes tumor growth and metastasis to regional lymph nodes, the latter of which will be studied using the assay developed by Travis.  Both Travis and Jefferson plan to attend medical school.

Travis Goodloe '16 and his poster describing a method he developed for detecting melanoma cells within lymph nodes

Travis Goodloe ’16 and his poster describing a method he developed for detecting melanoma cells within lymph nodes

 

Jefferson Thompson '16 and his poster describing the generation of a Foxc2 knockout melanoma cell line

Jefferson Thompson ’16 and his poster describing the generation of a Foxc2 knockout melanoma cell line

3rd Annual Longwood University/Hampden-Sydney College Sigma Xi Research Symposium a Huge Success!

On September 24, 2015 Hampden-Sydney College hosted the 3rd Annual Longwood University/Hampden-Sydney College Sigma Xi Research Symposium.  The event kicked off with a keynote address by Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer and Professor/Distinguished University Scholar in the Department of Biology at The University of Louisville, Dr. Lee Dugatkin, an internationally recognized expert in the field of evolutionary biology.  Dr Dugatkin’s address, entitled “Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose,” highlighted the captivating and comical tale of Thomas Jefferson’s efforts to disprove the idea of degeneracy in the New World.  The keynote address was followed by a poster session in which Hampden-Sydney College and Longwood University students presented research conducted through Honors/Independent Study Projects and Summer Research Programs.  The work of 39 students ranging from freshmen to seniors was showcased at the event and represented work conducted in various fields of science, including biology, chemistry, and physics.

Sigma Xi, the international multidisciplinary scientific research society, was founded in 1886 to honor excellence in scientific investigation and encourage collaboration among researchers in all fields of science and engineering. The Society consists of over 500 chapters at academic, industrial, and government research institutions and has nearly 60,000 members in more than 100 countries around the world. The Society endeavors to encourage support of original work across the spectrum of science and technology and to promote an appreciation within society at large for the role research has played in human progress.

Keynote Speaker Dr. Lee Dugatkin

Keynote Speaker Dr. Lee Dugatkin

Sigma Xi #4

Mitchell Thomas '17 presenting his research on fungal infection of hops.

Mitchell Thomas ’17 presenting his research on fungal infection of hops.

James Lau '17 presenting research conducted in the Chemistry Department on novel Schiff-base ligands.

James Lau ’17 presenting research conducted in the Chemistry Department on novel Schiff-base ligands.

Travis Goodloe '16 presenting his research on melanoma metastasis.

Travis Goodloe ’16 presenting his research on melanoma metastasis.

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Lots of great science!!!

Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 Receives Science Education Award

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 was recently selected the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) Recognition in Science Education (RISE) Award for the University/College Faculty category.  The award is presented annually to a single university/college science faculty member in the state of Virginia.  Dr. Hargadon’s award resulted from his nomination by former student and research collaborator Osric Forrest ’12, who is now a Ph.D. candidate in the Immunology Graduate Program at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.  The Virginia Association of Science Teachers was formed in 1952 with the mission of promoting excellence in science teaching and learning in VirginiaThe organization continues to thrive today with over 1100 members across the state.

Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01, Associate Professor of Biology, Publishes Report on Melanoma Genome Expression Analysis

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 recently published research from his laboratory that reveals significant insights into factors regulating tumor growth and progression.  The article, entitled “Whole genome expression microarray analysis of highly versus poorly tumorigenic murine melanoma cell lines provides insights into factors that regulate tumor growth, metastasis, and immunogenicity,” was published in Frontiers in Immunology, the official journal of the International Union of Immunological Societies.  Dr. Hargadon’s study compared the expression of more than 39,000 genes in highly aggressive versus slow-growing melanomas and identified 1,462 genes that are overexpressed and 1,935 genes that are underexpressed in the aggressive form of this cancer.  These findings highlight several critical genes and pathways controlling the behavior of tumor cells that will increase our understanding of tumor progression and potentially identify novel targets for cancer therapy.  Indeed, results from this study are driving current work by Dr. Hargadon and his collaborating H-SC students that focuses on one of the genes (known as Foxc2) found to be overexpressed in aggressive melanoma.    

The Frontiers in Immunology article is available for download at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fimmu.2015.00452/full

Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon, 5 H-SC Students Publish Cancer Research

Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 recently published a major research article on melanoma-altered function of dendritic cells in the journal Immunology and Cell Biology.  Published by Nature Publishing Group, one of the leading publishers of scientific and medical journals, Immunology and Cell Biology places particular emphasis on the cellular biology of the immune system.  Dr. Hargadon’s article, entitled “Melanoma-derived factors alter the maturation and activation of differentiated tissue-resident dendritic cells,” includes 5 Hampden-Sydney College student co-authors who have worked on various aspects of this project in his lab over the past 3 years.  These student authors are Drake Bishop, Jay Brandt, Charlie Hand, Yonathan Ararso, and Osric Forrest.  Osric Forrest is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Immunology Graduate Program at Emory University, Drake Bishop and Jay Brandt are both pursuing an M.D. at Eastern Virginia Medical School, and Yonathan Ararso is in the process of applying to M.D./Ph.D. programs.  The research reported in their article (http://www.nature.com/icb/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/icb201558a.html) describes how aggressive melanomas compromise the function of dendritic cells in a way that may ultimately promote tumor escape from host immune responses.  Dr. Hargadon’s research program is currently funded by a grant from the Commonwealth Health Research Board.

Two H-SC Students Conducting Melanoma Research

This summer two H-SC students, Jefferson Thompson ’16 and Travis Goodloe 16′, are conducting melanoma research in the laboratory of Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01.  In addition to support from the College’s Honors Council and a Commonwealth Health Research Board grant to Dr. Hargadon, both students have also received external funding for their work.  Travis Goodloe received a Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research for a project entitled “Validation of a Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR)-based Method for Detecting Lymph Node Metastasis by Melanoma Cells.”  He is developing an assay to measure the spread of regional melanomas into tumor-draining lymph nodes, and this work will serve as a foundation for future studies that aim to investigate how lymph node involvement by melanoma cells impacts the induction of immune responses to this tumor.  Jefferson Thompson received a Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges Undergraduate Science Research Fellowship for a project entitled “Generation of a Foxc2 Gene Knockout Murine Melanoma Cell Line via CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Editing Technology.”  CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing has revolutionized the field of genetic engineering since its discovery in 2013, and Jefferson is the first student to employ this technology at Hampden-Sydney College.  He will be editing the nucleotide sequence of the Foxc2 gene in a mouse melanoma cell line so that the protein encoded by this gene is no longer produced.  This “knockout” cell line will be used in future studies to investigate the role of the FOXC2 transcription factor in regulating melanoma metastasis, and those studies will utilize the metastasis assay being developed by Travis.  If the FOXC2 protein is shown to promote melanoma spread to lymph nodes, it may serve as both a clinical marker for the progression of this cancer as well as a novel therapeutic target for cancer treatments designed to eradicate metastatic melanoma.  Both Jefferson and Travis plan to attend medical school upon their graduation from H-SC!

Jefferson Thompson and Travis Goodloe

Jefferson Thompson ’16 (right) and Travis Goodloe ’16 (left) hard at work in the lab!

Jefferson has become a pro at gel electrophoresis!

Jefferson has become a pro at gel electrophoresis!

Travis Goodloe

Travis dissecting a melanoma tumor-bearing mouse!

5 H-SC Sophomores Accepted to Medical Schools through Early Assurance Programs

Five Hampden-Sydney College sophomore students were recently accepted into medical schools through Early Assurance Programs that the College has established.  James Lau ’17 was accepted at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Brant Boucher ’17 and Will Echols ’17 were both accepted at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine, and Benjamin Lam ’17 and Robert Kerby ’17 were both accepted at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.  Through articulation agreements established between Hampden-Sydney College and each medical institution, competitive students apply during their sophomore year for admittance into medical school.  Once accepted, successful students complete their 4 years of undergraduate work at H-SC and have guaranteed admission to medical school following their graduation.  Congratulations to this year’s successful applicants and future doctors!