JSCC Clanton student participates in UAB research

Published 9:33 am Monday, August 28, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/Senior Staff Writer

Savannah Swindle, a sophomore at Jefferson State Community College’s Clanton campus, participated in Blazing to Biomedical Careers this summer, where she conducted research on ovarian cancer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Swindle received a $5,000 stipend for her work in the 10-week program.

Swindle heard about the opportunity in her biology class at JSCC.

“I thought it would be good on my resume and a good opportunity to expose myself to research,” Swindle said.

Only 10 students were selected from Jefferson State Community College campuses. Swindle was the only student selected from the Clanton campus. The remaining students in the program were from Lawson State Community College.

The application process included submitting letters of recommendation and two rounds of interviews. The second interview was with a University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazing to Biomedical Careers representative.

“It was mostly about what kind of research I want to do, what do I want to pursue in life,” Swindle said.

Swindle is a currently a biology major and plans to become an OBG/YN or an orthodontist. She said both fields appeal to her because she likes “solving things.”

This information was used to match participants with research projects and mentors.

The first two weeks were spent in a classroom learning how to use the equipment needed for the research projects. Students were matched with a medical doctor or researcher who held a doctorate in the field they were interested in.

Swindle said she worked with an OBG/YN who specialized in oncology.

“I got to shadow her a couple of times, and I got to work in her lab,” Swindle said.

Her research studied Beta-Catenin levels and PD-L1 expression on an ovarian cancer tumor before and after neoadjuvant chemotherapy. This therapy is used to shrink the tumor to a size that can be removed. Swindle studied samples of 15 patients’ tumors and used immunohistochemistry, treating the tumor with an antibody, to see how much Beta-Catenin and PD-L1 were in the tumor.

“Beta-Catenin helps you grow … but if you have too much and you have a bad cell, like a cancer cell, it can actually make that grow,” Swindle said.

PD-L1 disguises bad cells to the body as healthy cells, and can spread throughout the body.

During the program, Swindle studied processes that usually only medical students are working with. She said she really enjoyed working with “the different chemicals and learning the different vocabulary and the research.”

Swindle also observed how her mentor treated patients.

“I got to see how she interacted with her patients, and hopefully someday when I become a doctor, I can see how to approach my patients in a way to help them in a difficult situation,” Swindle said.

She also enjoyed talking to the UAB medical students.

“They gave me advice,” Swindle said.

They also helped her understand anything she did not understand after the surgeries.

Swindle will also be completing research next summer as a part of the program.

The program is held annually, and Swindle said she would like to see more Clanton students participate.

“The main reason they do this is to get students from community colleges exposed to biomedical research,” Swindle said.

More information is available at http://www.uab.edu/cord/BBC.