Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 and Students Publish Article on Cancer Immunotherapy

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 and two of his research students (Corey Williams ’19 and Coleman Johnson ’19) recently published a review article on cancer immunotherapy in the journal International Immunopharmacology. The article, entitled “Immune Checkpoint Blockade Therapy for Cancer: An Overview of FDA-approved Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors,” highlights the emerging field of checkpoint blockade therapy that has revolutionized the treatment of many cancer types in recent years. Designed to “release the brakes” that inherently limit the strength and duration of natural immune responses, checkpoint blockade therapy enables many patients to achieve long-term anti-tumor immune responses capable of eradicating their disease. An expert in tumor immunology. Dr. Hargadon was invited by editors of the journal to contribute an article on cancer immunotherapy, and he used this opportunity to engage two of his pre-medical research students in the analysis of clinical trial outcomes for immune checkpoint inhibitors. Corey Williams and Coleman Johnson have been doing melanoma research in Dr. Hargadon’s laboratory since the summer of 2017. Rising seniors, they will continue their work on factors that promote tumor immune evasion during their senior year. Both have already been accepted to Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine.

The Hargadon et al. article may be accessed here: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1XJoR5aRFnNvyw

In addition to appearing in a regular issue of the journal, Dr. Hargadon’s article will also be featured in a Special Issue on “Cellular Therapeutics in the Context of Immunopharmacology.”

5 H-SC Sophomores Accepted into Medical School

5 outstanding Hampden-Sydney College sophomore students were recently accepted into prestigious medical schools through early assurance articulation agreements established at the College.  David Fluharty ’20, Khoa Tran ’20, and Jared Dunlap ’20 were all accepted to the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, and Eli Strong ’20 and Brian Tarnai ’20 were both accepted to the George Washington University School of Medicine.  These students will complete their 4 years of undergraduate work at Hampden-Sydney College and will then enroll in medical school in the summer of 2020!

H-SC Melanoma Research on Display at Virginia Academy of Science Annual Meeting

On Thursday, May 24, three Hampden-Sydney students working in the laboratory of Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 delivered oral presentations of their melanoma research.  Corey Williams ’19, Coleman Johnson ’19, and recently named Goldwater Scholar David Bushhouse ’19 presented their work on the role of FOXC2 in melanoma progression.  While Coleman has been investigating how FOXC2 regulates melanoma cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix and lymphatic endothelial cells, Corey has been studying how FOXC2 influences the expression of integrins and other cell adhesion molecules involved in these processes.  In related work, David Bushhouse has been optimizing a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay for identifying target genes directly regulated by the FOXC2 transcription factor.  Coleman and Corey have already been accepted to medical school at Virginia Commonwealth University, and David will be applying to graduate schools to pursue his Ph.D.

Also at this conference, Dr. Hargadon presented his work on the ways he is introducing his cancer research into the classroom as a means of exposing more students to the research process and as a tool for enabling students to investigate and better understand the process of gene expression.

Best Student Poster Presentation Award

On May 24, recent H-SC biology graduate, Tyler McGaughey, attended the Virginia Academy of Sciences (VAS) annual conference at Longwood University with Dr. Kristin Fischer. He presented their work on skeletal muscle regeneration entitled “Porous Hydrogel Scaffolds and OTC Supplements for Muscle Regeneration”. Tyler won the Best Student Poster Presentation Award for the biomedical and general engineering section.

Tyler McGaughey with his poster at VAS

Article published on Herps of HSC!

Dr. Rachel Goodman and E. Davis Carter ’15 recently published an article, “Survey of Herpetofauna on the Campus of Hampden-Sydney College in Prince Edward County, Virginia” in Catesbeiana (available here). They summarize findings from various surveys (including student research projects and Ecology and Herpetology class trips) for reptiles and amphibians that were conducted during 2010 – 2014 on our beautiful 1,300 acre campus. We can now boast of having 4 salamanders, 6 frogs, 5 turtles, 8 snakes, and 3 lizards at HSC. The authors report on demographic data when available for a species, and compare detection rate for herps using artificial cover objects (tin roofing and plywood sheets) laid out in the woods.

CLICK HERE to get a PDF download with images for the Herps of HSC! Herps HSC example

Davis is currently pursuing his Master’s in Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and is hoping to continue his PhD this year in the lab of Dr. Matthew Gray.

Davis Carter '15 and Dr. Goodman working with a specimen

Davis Carter ’15 and Dr. Goodman working with a specimen

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 Publishes Invited Review Article in Leading Immunology Journal

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon recently contributed a comprehensive review article on dendritic-cell based immunotherapy for melanoma to a special issue of Frontiers in Immunology. An expert in tumor immunology who has conducted cutting-edge research on melanoma-associated suppression of dendritic cell function, Dr. Hargadon was invited in the summer of 2017 to contribute to the Frontiers in Immunology Research Topic “New Therapies and Immunological Findings in Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers,” a special issue for the journal edited by Dr. Atsushi Otsuka of Kyoto University in Japan and Dr. Reinhard Dummer of University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland. Dr. Hargadon’s article discusses not only the most current research on dendritic cell immunosuppression by melanoma but also other factors that influence dendritic cell function in the context of this cancer, including factors that influence the immunogenicity of tumor cell death, tumor-altered dendritic cell metabolism, and microbiome influences on dendritic cell-mediated anti-tumor immunity. His article highlights the current state of dendritic cell immunotherapy for melanoma and discusses future challenges that will need to be overcome to further improve the efficacy of dendritic cell-based therapies for this cancer.

Frontiers in Immunology is the official Journal of the International Union of Immunological Societies. It is the leading and most-cited Open Access journal in the field of Immunology and is the 5th most cited overall of 150 journals in the field of Immunology. Dr. Hargadon’s article can be accessed at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2017.01594/full

Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 Presents Research at Commonwealth of Virginia Cancer Research Conference

On Saturday Sept. 23 Elliott Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 joined more than 300 cancer researchers from major research universities across the state to present recent work from his laboratory at the inaugural Commonwealth of Virginia Cancer Research Conference held at the University of Virginia.  Dr. Hargadon’s presentation focused on the role of the FOXC2 transcription factor as a critical driver of melanoma progression and featured work that he has conducted with 6 Hampden-Sydney College students over the last two years, all of whom were co-authors on the presentation.  These student co-authors include Jefferson Thompson ’16 (applying to medical school), Travis Goodloe ’16 (now at University of South Alabama School of Medicine), James Lau ’17 (now at Eastern Virginia Medical School), Corey Williams ’19 (already accepted at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine), Coleman Johnson ’19 (already accepted at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine), and David Bushhouse ’19 (plans to pursue Ph.D. in a field of molecular genetics).  Both Corey Williams ’19 and David Bushhouse ’19 joined Dr. Hargadon at the symposium and experienced firsthand the enthusiasm and momentum currently running through the field of cancer research.  Major themes of the conference included new insights into molecular drivers of cancer progression and strategies to improve on the already promising targeted and immune-based therapies that are revolutionizing cancer treatment.

Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon '01 presenting his work on the role of FOXC2 in promoting lymph node metastasis by melanoma.

Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon ’01 presenting his work on the role of FOXC2 in promoting lymph node metastasis by melanoma.

Jamie Ingersoll ’18 Investigates Neuronal Synaptic Plasticity Abroad and at Home

My name is James Ingersoll ’18 and I’ve spent my summer working on a research study about the benefits of reading to your children. Before I talk about the research I’m working on this summer, I would like to talk about how I started my summer. The first day of my summer I was on a plane headed towards Madrid, Spain for a conference. I was fortunate enough to have the work I did during my 2016 H-SC summer research fellowship selected as a presentation poster at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) in San Diego last November. I continued this work characterizing the neuronal changes that occur after fetal alcohol exposure by taking 6 credits of Biology Independent Research with Dr. Erin Clabough during the 2016-17 school year.

Jamie Ingersoll presents his work at the International Behavioural Neural Genetics Society Annual Meeting in Madrid

Jamie Ingersoll presents his work at the International Behavioural Neural Genetics Society Annual Meeting in Madrid

This last spring I was invited to the International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society (IBANGS) conference in Madrid in May, so the day after graduation I was in Madrid attending the IBANGS conference as the only undergraduate there.  I was a bit nervous going into the conference as I was the youngest attendee, but these nerves quickly subsided, as everyone at the conference was incredibly nice and personable. The conference was very different from SfN in San Diego, which was enormous. IBANGS was small, and everyone there were working on very interesting things, which was very cool to be able to hear more about. I had an incredible time in Madrid and am truly thankful for the young investigator travel award I received from IBANGS, as well as funding from H-SC, to allow conference attendance.

This summer, I’ve received a 2017 H-SC Summer Research Fellowship to continue this neuronal characterization, and to begin working on a research study that focuses on understanding better the benefits of reading to children, and if this reading alters the way children think or feel about others. Although these two projects may not seem related, both target synaptic plasticity, or the way that neurons can change in response to the environment. Sometimes these changes are negative, like in the case of early ethanol exposure, or they can be positive, like early exposure to reading.

books

Books used in a study investigating the effects of reading picture books to kids

Recruitment for this reading study has been a little tricky because a lot of parents are interested, but the children aren’t always as interested and if the kids say no, then I can’t enroll them into the study. It’s also been tricky because of vacation schedules. A lot of families have planned vacations that would interrupt the daily reading requirements of the study. Because of these factors, I haven’t been able to hit the numbers I intended on at the start of the study. These setbacks still don’t rival how much fun it’s been to work with children on something so interesting. I’m now working on running a statistical analysis on the data, and hope to have the stats done soon. I hope that my findings will prove to be useful for young families, help young kids be more school ready, and also allow us to learn more about synaptic plasticity.

 

Summer research on using biologically-inspired models to fight water pollution

By Brian Tarnai ’20

The opportunity to participate in summer research as a freshman was incredible. This research gave me my first real glance into how the scientific community really works. In my project I was working with both Hampden-Sydney and Virginia Tech professors to create a bioinspired, 3D printed prototype that would collect trash in rivers.  The results of this work will be integrated into a National Science Foundation proposal that would enable undergraduates from across the nation to engage in projects that combine techniques in biology and engineering to ethically solve world challenges like water pollution.

3D-printed mangrove roots as a potential model for trapping and clearing of water waste

3D-printed mangrove roots as a potential model for trapping and clearing of water waste

During this project I stepped out of my comfort zone and developed valuable insight into many aspects of professional science that I was unaware of. I learned how to communicate with professors from different institutions to effectively accomplish a goal, write and submit research protocol, learn and master new technology,  obtain permission to use live animals in an experiment, and how to correctly address adversity in a professional manner. This research has taught me that I have the ability to think big and also possess the practical means that will allow me to reach any goal I set. The lessons and skills that I’ve developed this summer will be extraordinarily beneficial on my path to medical school and into the world beyond.

By testing biological models like this spider web at small scale, we can learn more about how effective they may be at fighting water pollution in a true environmental situation

By testing biological models like this spider web at small scale, we can learn more about how effective they may be at fighting water pollution in a true environmental situation

The author hard at work generating models from the 3D printer

The author hard at work generating models from the 3D printer

H-SC students present class-based research at national HHMI symposium

2017 marks the sixth year of Hampden-Sydney’s participation in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomic and Evolutionary Sciences (SEA-PHAGES) program.  SEA-PHAGES is a national initiative in which undergraduates from roughly 100 institutions work to isolate and characterize bacteriophages, or viruses that infect bacteria, from the environment by molecular and bioinformatics methods.  Each year, students from Dr. Mike Wolyniak’s Molecular and Cellular Biology course work to isolate and analyze novel bacteriophages while Genomics and Bioinformatics students annotate and study the DNA genomic sequences of these bacteriophages.  Dakota Reinartz ’18 and Wood Morgan ’18 were members of both classes and recently presented some of the class’ work at the annual SEA-PHAGES symposium at HHMI’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia.

Dakota and Wood outside Janelia Farm

Dakota and Wood outside Janelia Farm

The HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus

The HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus

Dakota and Wood presented work on the class’ characterization of Thespis, a bacteriophage isolated previously by David Bushhouse ’19 that infects and destroys Mycobacterium smegmatis, a close relative of the bacteria responsible for tuberculosis.

Dakota presents the poster on Thespis characterization to a symposium guest

Dakota presents the poster on Thespis characterization to a symposium guest

Wood's turn

Wood’s turn

The data collected from SEA-PHAGES students can be examined at phagesdb.org and has led to several peer reviewed publications on the ways in which viruses evolve and adapt in different environmental conditions.  SEA-PHAGES is one of several opportunities Hampden-Sydney biology students get to interact with authentic research questions in their coursework.

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Wood, Dakota, and Professor Mike Wolyniak at the SEA-PHAGES Symposium