Fulbrights Awarded to Two UMass Amherst Undergraduate Students

AMHERST, Mass. - Fulbright grants have been awarded to University of Massachusetts seniors Carolyn Dong and Helena Horak to pursue different types of cancer research.

Dong will spend a year at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia conducting research on a gene that may affect the vascularization of tumors. The aim of the research is to understand enough about the gene to prevent or reverse the effects of tumor vascularization, which is the development of a network of blood vessels that feeds a tumor. Dong will work under the direction of Peter Koopman, a scientist and professor at the University of Queensland''s Institute for Molecular Bioscience and in conjunction with the Royal Brisbane Hospital. Horak will spend a year developing genetic comparisons between esophageal and gastric tumors from a region of China known as the "Esophageal Cancer Belt," where residents have a 20-fold greater chance of developing digestive tract cancers than people living elsewhere.

Horakwill conduct her research at the Microarray Facility of the Genome Institute of Singapore at the National University of Singapore under the direction of Edison Liu, the institute''s executive director.

"It is a tribute to Carolyn and Helena to be able to receive these highly competitive scholarships. There is keen competition for scholarships to these countries," said Susan K. Whitbourne, a psychology professor who directs the Office of National Scholarship Advisement (ONSA) and serves as the Fulbright program advisor at UMass. "By seeking the counseling provided as part of ONSA''s advising services, Carolyn and Helena were able to polish off what were already excellent applications. I would encourage any student with an interest in the Fulbright and other prestigious scholarships to come and see us for help."

Dong, 22, of Wayland, is pursuing a major in biology and a minor in art. She has been accepted into Harvard University''s Ph.D. program in biomedical sciences, but will defer enrollment for one year to pursue her research in Australia. "I want to gain a more global perspective," Dong said. "I''d like to expand my experiences and gear my research toward biomedical sciences. The effects of tumor formation can be devastating. If I am able to provide even a little insight into this area of science and medicine, I will feel my time in Australia has been worthwhile."

Horak, 21, of Westlake Village, Calif., is pursuing a double major in biochemistry and biology, and a double minor in chemistry and anthropology. "The research project in Singapore is an opportunity to broaden my instrumental techniques and research skills, and my anthropology minor provides a unique perspective on how cultural behavioral patterns and environmental influences affect human disease," Horak said. "Esophageal cancer is a social and medical issue, and I believe my background in science and anthropology will be a strong combination to conduct this study."

Dong won a senior leadership award this semester and has won two honors research fellowships at Commonwealth College, the honors program at UMass. She is a junior fellow in the biology department. Last summer, Dong studied the effects of spatial localization of genes in mammal cells in the lab of David Spector, professor at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation. In the summer of 2000, she researched cell death in the fruit fly in the John Nambus Laboratory at UMass. Dong is a member of Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and Golden Key National Honor Society. She worked for two years as a peer advisor and is now a peer coordinator at Commonwealth College.

As an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Scholar this semester, Horak has been investigating reproductive neuroendocrinology in the lab of Sandra L. Petersen, professor of biology at UMass. Last summer, Horak won a National Institutes of Health Biomedical Research Fellowship to study nuclear proteins associated with drug-resistance in ovarian cancers. She is co-captain of the University''s Division I women''s tennis team, and has earned both personal and team honors. She participates in the Citizen Scholar Community Service Program and the Lewis International Program at UMass. Horak was one of 20 college students in the country recently named to the First Team of the All-USA College Academic Team by the national daily newspaper USA Today for outstanding intellectual achievement and leadership.