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Taking On Cancer: How One IC Student's Research May Eventually Contribute to Advances in Treatment

Written by Sara Webb '14 and Kristin Leffler '14

Rochelle Frankson '13 in the chemistry lab

As a junior at Ithaca College, Rochelle Frankson ’13 was already involved in cancer research, contributing data to the collective knowledge the world has about the disease. Frankson’s work may eventually help lead to advances in cancer treatment. “Using the skills that I’ve developed to solve a problem that so many people are facing is a good way to use my time on earth,” she said.

A chemistry major, Frankson spent her summer working 40 hours a week in a lab at IC investigating how different acids interacted with a protein called histone-deacetylase-8, which is known to be overactive in cases of colon and prostate cancer. The goal in the lab was to identify potential “inhibitors” that would someday be used to develop new cancer treatments.

“It was really intense,” she said. “It was probably my first impression of life as a scientist, and it affirmed that’s what I want to do in graduate school.”

After that summer in the lab, Frankson continued her research during the fall semester and then presented her findings the following spring at the American Chemical Society conference in New Orleans. While at the conference, she learned the importance of educating the public in matters of science.

“You’re doing this research to eventually help other people. But you have to translate it for the nonscientific community,” she said.

That’s why Frankson is thinking about teaching science while continuing to do research, just as her IC professors do. She decided to pursue a Ph.D. at Indiana University after graduating from IC.

“I think teaching is extremely important, but there’s nothing to teach if you don’t do the research, so a balance would be good,” she said.

The accessibility of the chemistry professors at IC really helped Frankson excel and learn, especially in an environment that was completely new to her as an international student from Jamaica. The close-knit, supportive faculty of the chemistry department made IC feel more like a family to her.

“I expected the professor-student relationship to only be professional,” she said. “But they actually have a vested interest in you as a person.”

Frankson had very good relationships with many of the professors in the department who she said listened to her not out of obligation, but because they were genuinely interested. They were also instrumental in helping her get into graduate school. During her time on campus, Frankson led the Caribbean Student Association and became a student leadership consultant in the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs, where she helped to organize community service events for Service Saturdays.

“It’s enjoyable to give back not just to the campus but also to the Ithaca community,” she said.

Reflecting back on her time at Ithaca, Frankson said IC was the place that really pushed her to go after what she wanted.

“Thanks to Ithaca College, I’m ready to not just see but also do,” she said. “Ithaca was the first setting for me to actually take control of my life and just be involved.”



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