St. Mary’s College student Randy Larsen IV ’19 spent the summer interning at the Women’s Malignancies Branch of the National Cancer Institute. Under Senior Investigator Patricia Steeg, the lab focused on the mechanisms of how breast cancer metastasizes into the brain.
Larsen’s day-to-day mentor was researcher Lin Xiao. “Working with Dr. Xiao, my project focused on validating the use of induced pluripotent stem cells to create a more functionally accurate in vitro blood-brain barrier model,” said Larsen. “In layman’s terms, we cultured stem cells into brain cells – endothelial cells specifically – and found that when we used those new induced endothelial cells, our model behaved more like the in vivo brain compared to many currently used in vitro models.”
“I had an amazing time working under Dr. Xiao and Dr. Steeg,” said Larsen. “They were incredibly supportive, no matter how frustrating and time-consuming parts of my project were. Besides sharpening my lab skills, it was great to see what the life of a full-time research scientist was like, and learn about working in an institute as big as the NCI. Most of all, I’m really excited to be able to use my new experience here at St. Mary’s College and continue being a part of cancer research.”
Larsen credits the skills and techniques he learned in the classroom with former Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Amanda Schech as the main reason he was selected to join the NCI lab. “I was a part of her research group for the past two years. We studied the role of androgen receptor in triple-negative breast cancer. Being as familiar as I was with qPCR, western blotting, and cell-culture was the main reason I was selected to join Dr. Steeg’s lab.”
Larsen is a biochemistry major with a minor in math. Following St. Mary’s College, he plans to pursue an advanced degree and become a cancer researcher full-time.