Rachel Cancel ('17, Chemistry Major & Mathematics Minor)

Rachel CancelWhat do you do for your undergraduate research?

In the laboratory I work with a team of undergraduate and graduate students. We work on synthesizing a library of novel DNA damaging compounds that are specifically targeted to cancer cells in the hopes of improving cancer treatments. These compounds are made of a cell targeting agent, a DNA binding unit, and a DNA damaging unit. In order to target different types of cancer cells, several different molecules have been synthesized in our laboratory with different targeting agents that target different receptors. The goal of my research is to test these compounds for efficacy by using a High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) spectrometry to analyze the quantity of DNA damage being done by new compounds being created in the laboratory.

What made you want to pursue an undergraduate research project?

I was interested in gaining a better understanding of how the concepts that I was learning in class could be applied outside of the classroom. I knew that working in a laboratory on a research project would give me a "hands on" experience that was more in depth than my required courses would provide.

How did you start your research project?

I was first inspired to get into research by my CHM 101 professor Dr. Reeves. After I explained that I would be interested in learning about organic synthesis and the medical applications of chemistry, he referred me to Dr. Varadarajan. Dr. Varadarajan and I then planned a project for me to work on. Since I was only a freshman at that point, I observed graduate students at work for the majority of the first semester. As I became more accustomed with the lab, I took on more responsibility until I eventually began working on my own projects.

Was doing your own research fun? Be Honest.

As someone who finds great fun in new challenges, I can say that my research was and still is fun. Every day of research provides me with a new challenge, and a new opportunity to grow as a scientist.

It isn't required to do research as an undergrad, so what advantages do you think this experience has provided you?

I think that doing research as an undergraduate has solidified my desire to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry. Working in the laboratory gives me an accurate feeling for what it will be like as a graduate student. Luckily, I love this feeling and I can't wait to begin graduate school! Additionally, working in the laboratory has provided me with all of the common skills needed in any industrial laboratory outside of the academic setting. This will make me more desirable to future employers and make my transition into industry life more comfortable.

What recognition and/or grants did you receive for your research?

I received the CSURF Research Supplies Grant (Spring 2014), and the CSURF Undergraduate Research Fellowship for 2015-2016.

What are your plans after you receive your degree from UNCW?

I plan to pursue my PhD in Organic Chemistry.

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