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WIU Organic Chemistry Professor T.K. Vinod oversees Western's senior forensic chemistry major Michael Bordowitz, who carefully handles a transfer of a liquid.
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2009 Summer chemistry students in the Western Illinois University lab, working with the National Cancer Institute/National Institues for Health and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (AARA) grants.
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WIU Chemistry Receives Grants from Nat'l Cancer Institute, ARRA for Summer Research For Educators, Students

October 19, 2009

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MACOMB, IL - - "Discoveries come from a pioneering spirit, which teachers and researchers can encourage in students," said Rose McConnell, professor and chair of the Western Illinois University chemistry department.

This summer (2009) and next (Summer 2010), McConnell and three other Western Illinois chemistry professors - - Thottumkara "T. K." Vinod, organic chemistry; Jin Jin, medicinal chemistry; and Lisa Wen, biochemistry - - are leading a research project funded by a $196,833 grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes for Health; and a supplemental grant of $122,781 from funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which is designed to provide summer research experiences for students and science educators.

The goal of the research is to develop inhibitors to slow the activity of cathepsins, which are protease enzymes that promote metastases in tumors, McConnell explained.

"Discovery is the key to this project," McConnell added. "This project is training existing public school science teachers, and students who will someday become scientists and engineers. We hope to show the participants how to inspire human curiosity by instilling in them a sense of discovery ourselves. While I see our project as being about the development of new medicines, I also see another outcome being the development of new scientists, and new science teachers who will carry the inspiration on in their future classrooms.

"In addition to the larger benefits of developing compounds to slow the growth of cancer, this project also gives students and faculty from the high school level on up the opportunity to understand the value of research through real life, hands-on training funded through a national grant," McConnell said. "The ARRA supplement grant provides funds not only for research supplies, but for student stipends and for travel to present our findings at research conferences and symposia."

Students will also have the opportunity to be listed as co-authors in subsequent journal articles, and that will give them "a leg up in getting into highly competitive research institutions when they are ready," McConnell explained.

Senior forensic chemistry major Michael Bordowitz was among the students who participated in the research grant project in Summer 2009.

"We got first-hand training and experience on a wide variety of laboratory equipment that we would not normally get to use," Bordowitz said. "There was so much more we got to do on a project of this magnitude that just cannot be covered in a regular classroom situation."

Bordowitz worked with other WIU undergraduate and graduate students, area high school students and two high school science teachers on the research team for the project. Participants included Macomb High School science teacher Thomas Johnson of Carthage (IL) and Beach High School (Savanna, GA) science teacher Laura Berryman. High school students were: Dilyana Dimitrova (Macomb, IL) and Jessica Hunter (Macomb, IL), students at Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (Aurora, IL); Derek Lessard (Macomb, IL), a 2009 Macomb High School graduate; Kenneth Liang (Deluth, GA) from Northview High School, Deluth, GA; and Alice Ye (Macomb, IL), a senior at Macomb High School.

Western Illinois undergraduate student researchers included: non-degree student Allison Glick (Pekin, IL); senior chemistry/biochemistry major Ryan Keefer (Downers Grove, IL); and senior chemistry/ biochemistry major Nicholas Saicheck (Rockford, IL).

Western graduate student researchers included: Matthew McConnell (Macomb, IL); Jennifer Chmielowski (Lake Zurick, IL); and four students from the State of Andhra Pradesh, India: HimaBindu Gottam (Vijayawada); Kalyani Inapudi (Ghantasala); Naveen Kadasala (Nalgonda); and Karthika Yarlagadda (Hyderabad).

For more information about the grants and the research, contact McConnell at the WIU chemistry department, (309) 298-1538, or e-mail

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