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Westminster College Student and Professor Receive $10,000 to Conduct Cancer Cell-Killing Research 

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Posted on Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Members of the Westminster College biology department received a $10,000 award that covered the cost of their summer research efforts, which included the study of chemotherapy drugs.

Karen Resendes, associate professor of biology and Kelly Higby, senior molecular biology major and graduate of Girard High School, were selected as the first annual recipients of the Westminster College Dietz-Sullivan Biology Research Experience Award. This award allowed the pair to spend their summer in the Westminster College laboratory, conducting intensive research that investigates the molecular mechanism by which chemotherapy drugs induce cell death in certain cervical and lung cancers.

According to Resendes, misregulated nuclear transport affects cancer progression and treatment in certain types of cancer cells. Determining if chemotherapies inhibit this altered nuclear transport as part of cell death can provide evidence of treatments that are potentially better options for these cancer subtypes.

“By performing undergraduate research that has a clinical aspect, I hope to cross the bridge between education, research and medicine and learn how all three interact,” said Higby. “I will hopefully be able to contribute data to round out a manuscript and publish the research that has been performed on this topic.”

Along with covering the cost of supplies and stipends, the award will allow Higby to present her research at the American Society of Cell Biology Conference in San Diego, Calif. in December.

“By contributing to the publication of research in Dr. Resendes’s lab, I’m becoming a well-rounded applicant for medical school,” continued Higby. “I will further be able to attest for the importance of a liberal arts education and show that Westminster College is a place that pushes you above and beyond what is required, as long as you strive for it.”

The annual Dietz-Sullivan Biology Research Experience Award was developed using funds donated to the biology department by Mr. Fredrick H. Sullivan in honor of his wife, Carol Dietz Sullivan ’59. The Sullivan’s donation was matched by Dow Chemicals.

 “This award provides students with the financial support to conduct research,” said Resendes. “And, this research adds a greater depth to student work, making them stronger candidates for advanced degree programs and careers in STEM.”

For more information about the award, contact Resendes at or (724) 926-7211. Visit for more information about the biology department at Westminster College.