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Conducting independent research on cancer is a privilege that biology major Benjamin Goldstein ’07 (Maple Glen, Pa.) does not take lightly. As he worked to understand how Vitamin D affects cancer cells in mice under the direction of Robert Kurt, assistant professor of biology, in the fall term, Goldstein knew how valuable the experience will prove in medical school.

“Personally, this is a huge stepping stone,” Goldstein says. “What really excites me about doing research with cancer is that it is a good model of how amazing and complex the human body is.”

Goldstein’s first experiment put 10 mice on a Vitamin D-rich diet and 10 mice on a Vitamin D-deficient diet. After seven weeks, he injected breast cancer cells into each animal’s left hind leg. This particular strain of cancer normally spreads to the lungs. Three weeks later, he removed their lungs and counted the cancer colonies in each test group.

“Just the color of the lungs was completely different,” he says. “The Vitamin D ones were pink and the Vitamin D-deficient ones were darkish brown.”

Kurt is a leading cancer researcher whose work has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense, and National Institutes of Health. Since joining the Lafayette faculty in 2000 he has engaged more than 25 Lafayette students in his research program.

“What makes Dr. Kurt’s lab so unique is that he expects a certain level of professionalism,” says Goldstein. “He expects you to be well prepared and to know the equipment and the requirements of a sterile environment. It puts pressure on you to perform at the highest level.”

Kurt says Goldstein should publish his research next year, since it could help determine how a change in diet or lack of sunlight affects the spread of cancer in humans.

“Ben is very eager and driven,” says Kurt. “He completely took the lead role. He thinks like a researcher, which is amazing for an undergrad student.”

Goldstein has participated in a pre-medicine program at Abington (Pa.) Memorial Hospital and plans to do research at Temple University School of Medicine this summer. Medical school is his next step, but he’s confident that research will continue to play a key role in his career.

“One of the things I think is absolutely necessary for any doctor is to understand that medicine is only as good as the research that drives it,” says Kurt.

“Lafayette is one of the perfect places to prepare students for the next level of education,” says Goldstein. “A lot of undergraduate students jump on research that’s already been created. I got to start my own. The students who take advantage of this opportunity are extremely lucky.”

Goldstein is a member of Biology Club, Hillel Society, and Crew Club. He participates in Gateway, Lafayette’s four-year career development plan, and is a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity.

Independent studies are among several major programs that have made Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. The College sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year; 39 students were accepted to present their research at last year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News