Research is more than an opportunity to explore the unknown or discover something new.
It represents a rare chance to give back, even if it is just a drop, to this great well of knowledge we all share.
I find it fascinating that the more we learn about our world, there will never be a lack of unanswered questions,
for with each new discovery we continue to dive deeper into the next chapter of exploration.
What I love about research is that there is always another question.
– Matt Kaiser
Matthew Kaiser is an undergraduate research assistant in the Linus Pauling Institute’s Cancer Chemoprotection Program. He is currently preparing a manuscript on vitamin C and cancer, with new insights from epigenetics. Matt, age 22, is a senior microbiology honors student, with minors in Spanish, chemistry, and toxicology.
He was appointed the first Helen P. Rumbel Undergraduate Research Scholar, on monies awarded to his mentor Dr. Rod Dashwood, Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Cancer Prevention.
His honors have included the Oregon State University Diversity Achievement Award, nomination for OSU Undergraduate Researcher of the Year (2013), and Honorable Mention for the College of Science Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher for 2013. Matt has received funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; LPI GraduateStudent Travel Fund; OSU Honors College Experience program; OSU’s Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and the Arts (URSA)-Engage; and OSU’s Undergraduate Research, Innovation, Scholarship & Creativity (URISC).
Below is an adaptation of a personal blog post Matt wrote for his friends and family.
A Dream is the Start to Any Reality
Four years ago, as a junior in high school, I promised myself I would never take another science course. Graduating as valedictorian, I immaturely assumed academic success meant I knew what I wanted in life. Three years ago, as a pre-finance major, I enrolled in an introductory microbiology course with the hope it would be my last life-science course ever.
That fall, however, everything changed, and a latent fascination emerged to ignite a passionate flame, a burning fervor for biomedical science.
My unexpected decision to pursue research was based on a desire to make a difference in the lives of others. I found myself applying for, and in January 2012 accepting, a research assistant position in one of the prominent cancer research labs in the Linus Pauling Institute. Under the leadership of Dr. Rod Dashwood,I began a journey that has come to define me.
The Dashwood lab is focused on understanding the underlying causes of colorectal cancer, which is the second most frequently diagnosed form of cancer among men and women. In 2012, colorectal cancer ranked second overall in cancer-related deaths in the United States, and therefore remains a high priority of the National Institutes of Health.
I am investigating the ability of high-dose vitamin C to selectively target tumor cells without damaging normal cells. By considering vitamin C’s effects from a molecular perspective, we aim to potentiate the effectiveness of this therapeutic option as it undergoes multiple Phase I clinical trials involving patients with advanced cancer.
My research experience took a major leap forward in April 2013, when I was given the rare opportunity as an undergraduate to deliver an oral presentation at the Experimental Biology Conference in Boston, MA.
I was honored to share the stage with two professors, four postdocs, and one fourth-year Ph.D. candidate, representing various institutions from across the country and around the world. Our audience included leading research experts from organic chemistry, pharmacology, oncology, physiology, nutrition, toxicology, molecular biology, and other biomedical specialties.
For 15 minutes, I explained why I had sacrificed all those Friday nights and weekends, why I chose lab work over naps or sleeping late on Saturday mornings. As I rose to take my place at the podium, I knew that moment represented a milestone in my life, a mark of transformation that made those weeks of practice and months of work worthwhile.
I did not come from a heavy science background. My parents are not surgeons or research investigators. I am not even particularly gifted in research. I’m just an average college student; I enjoy photography, hiking, and playing soccer with friends. I work hard and see the long-term payoff for my future career. Like many of my peers, I am driven by a desire to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
I am writing this because I see so much potential in those around me. I challenge my friends and peers:
What would you sacrifice if you realized you had the power to change someone’s life – to invoke a positive change in your community by looking beyond yourself, because you knew in your heart that this was your responsibility as a volunteer, a student, a family member, or friend?
What’s stopping you from becoming the person you’ve always dreamed of or doing something that you’ve wished you could do?
My time at OSU has been one of self-discovery and tremendous professional development. My undergraduate research experience has had a profound impact on my life and career goals. I will continue to dedicate my limited time to research, not simply to further my own aims, but because I believe in the value of what I am doing. I am committed to the importance of Linus Pauling Institute’s mission to “help people everywhere achieve a healthy and productive life, full of vitality, with minimal suffering, and free of cancer and other debilitating diseases.”
Research energizes and transforms me. Whether I am led toward a specific facet of research and obtain a Ph.D., or I follow my predilection for biomedical science and interest in translational medicine to pursue an M.D./Ph.D., I am eager to see where the spirit of place (genius loci) of Oregon State University, and this renaissance, continue to lead me.
Be encouraged knowing that you decide your own future. You alone have the power to do what you have always wanted to do. Your dreams shape your reality.