St. Olaf College | News

Research internship opens doors to postgraduate opportunities

KhorBrandon300x400A cancer research internship this summer opened numerous doors for St. Olaf College student Brandon Khor ’15: the possibility of having a paper published, an opportunity to gain valuable insight into a future career in medicine, and even the chance to return next year to finish the lab work he started.

Khor was one of three out-of-state students — and one of 14 total — selected to participate in the Nathan Schnaper Internship Program at the University of Maryland.

Through the University of Maryland School of Medicine, students were paired with a faculty member at the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center to conduct research.

Khor worked alongside University of Maryland doctoral candidate Tiha Long and faculty mentor and primary investigator Bret Hassel to examine whether adding RNase-L, an enzyme in the immune system, to colon cancer cells could serve as a treatment for the disease.

Throughout the summer, Khor’s team discovered that when there is a large quantity of RNase-L, certain cancerous cells can be pushed toward a state that makes them unable to multiply — and therefore unable to develop into a tumor.

Khor enjoyed the rewarding nature of this medical research, which he’ll compare this January to a St. Olaf service-learning course in Peru focused on giving students medical experience.

“The biggest reason why I’m drawn to medical research is that it would allow me to help a large number of people,” Khor says. “However, I’m more set on becoming a doctor that does clinical duties, so Peru will give me a great experience that I can juxtapose with my research internship and a chance to get more hands-on experience in the medical field.”

During the Interim course, Khor and his classmates will work with the communities of Cusco and Arequipa, Peru, to assess medical and dental needs and examine emerging and existing health care issues.

The course is one of a number of experiential learning opportunities St. Olaf students can use to explore a career in medicine. Others include the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program, an internship program at Hennepin County Medical Center, and a new networking program that brings students together with alumni physicians. The medical school acceptance rate for St. Olaf students is more than 20 percent higher than the national average.

And, as Khor has found, the opportunities for hands-on medical experience don’t end there.

With the success of his summer research findings, Khor has been invited back to the University of Maryland to continue his research and, if the findings are significant, have it published.

“I made great connections with my coworkers and my primary investigator there,” he says. “I’m also really interested in cancer research in general, so I’m definitely looking at going back and picking up where I left off.”