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Last year, Benjamin D. Goldstein ’07 (Maple Glen, Pa.) conducted research on how Vitamin D affects tumor growth and metastasis. He found there was more tumor growth in the Vitamin D experimental group than in the Vitamin D deficient group. Now the biology major is working on an honors thesis that may help support his previous findings.

“Currently, I am studying the effects of Vitamin D and how it inhibits the immune response,” says Goldstein. “By studying how the immune system reacts to a foreign body, and how lymphocytes secrete certain chemicals called cytokines, we can observe whether Vitamin D does, in fact, suppress the immune system. Specifically, we will be looking at two cytokines, interferon-gamma and interleukin-4. If we find that the immune system is suppressed, it will support my previous findings.”

Goldstein’s adviser is Robert Kurt, assistant professor of biology. Kurt explains that during the honors thesis project, Goldstein maintains mice on different diets and monitors them for health.

“Subsequently, he examines their ability to fight cancer and their ability to generate immune responses,” says Kurt. “This project is important because there are a great deal of publications that describe the benefits or drawbacks of Vitamin D on the ability to fight cancer or modulate the immune system, but very few studies have simultaneously addressed both of these issues.”

The immune system is an important mechanism for fighting off infections and protecting the body from any foreign matter that might have entered the blood stream.

“If more research can go into studying how the immune system reacts to infection, it may hold the key to how to solve the fight against cancer,” says Goldstein. “This is a really exciting field of research because you can get a better understanding of how the body protects against infection, and, if infected, how the body reacts.”

Goldstein plans to attend medical school and become a physician while conducting clinical research to continue his study of cancer and the immune system. Kurt believes Goldstein is well on his way to achieving his goals.

“Ben is extremely hard working,” says Kurt. “There is no question in my mind that he has a great future. He is the type of person that once he decides he is going to accomplish something he sees it through to completion. This project is not only teaching him basic science, but how to design experiments, ask questions, and determine how to answer those questions – abilities that will help him in any career. Knowing how to conduct a research project will help him understand the science behind information he will encounter in his chosen career and help him to critically evaluate that information. Additionally, if he chooses to conduct medical research, he now has a better understanding of what it entails.”

Goldstein appreciates the guidance Kurt has provided, adding that the professor expects a lot from his research students which helps prepare them for further education and professional careers.

“It has been a blessing to work with him, as he is one of the leading researchers in the field in which I am studying,” says Goldstein. “I have learned invaluable lessons and gained experience that I will be able to use later in my career. He is a highly qualified mentor who honestly cares about his students and cares whether they understand the topic they are studying. After a year working under Dr. Kurt, I have come to love cancer research and immunology.”

He also appreciates the educational opportunities Lafayette has provided him to study advanced topics, and he believes the faculty excels at preparing undergraduates to conduct research at the graduate school level and beyond. For example, Goldstein worked in the physiology department at Temple University School of Medicine. He says that by working under Kurt at Lafayette, he learned tools and procedures that helped him operate easily in a graduate school laboratory.

“Being a biology major, I have learned a lot of information I can use in the next step of my educational career,” says Goldstein. “The professors in the biology department are very approachable and more than able to help their students in any way they can. The department’s professors and students are a family. If I ever need help or guidance, I would not hesitate to go to a professor in the department.”

Goldstein is a Gateway Ambassador and a member of Student Movement Against Cancer and Delta Upsilon fraternity. He also is a varsity coxswain on the crew team.

Honors theses 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; 21 students were accepted to present their research at this year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News