Students Snare Scientific Honors

Graduate student Michaela Ranes earns Master's Thesis Award

A former undergraduate biology major who chose to remain at Boston College for her graduate studies recently learned that her persistence paid off - to the potential benefit of those suffering from brain cancer.

Michaela Ranes, '99, now a student at Tufts Medical School, learned last month that she won the 2000-2001 Master's Thesis Award from the Northeast Association of Graduate Schools.

The award recognizes research Ranes performed in the laboratory of Prof. Thomas Seyfried (Biology), where she studied alternate uses for a failed AIDS drug, N-butyldeoxynojirimycin. Thanks to a fellowship from the American Cancer Society, Ranes will return to BC this summer to continue her research.

According to Seyfried, Ranes' commitment to her work sets her apart from other students who often leave their research projects unfinished when they move on to other institutions for graduate work.

"Because she took the time to work on the project over a number of years, she was able to get the results," said Seyfried. "She should be commended for her persistence."

Ranes, who finished work for her masters' degree at BC last summer, began the winning project in 1998 through a University summer research fellowship prior to her senior year. Seyfried assigned her to test N-butyldeoxynojirimycin, theorizing that it might be useful in inhibiting the growth of brain tumors, something no other drug can do.

Ranes found that the drug slowed the growth of cancer cells in mice by about 60 percent of their normal rate. Should the drug prove as effective in humans, Seyfried said, it could prolong the lives of brain cancer patients whose only current treatment option is surgical removal of the tumor, followed by radiation therapy.

"It was exactly the type of research I was interested in doing so it was a great opportunity," said Ranes, who is now finishing her first year of medical school. "I'm looking forward to coming back to BC this summer to further the research."

Seyfried said competition for the award is intense considering the quality of universities in the New England and New York region.

-Stephen Gawlik

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