Student Conducts Summer Cancer Research at Kansas State

Patrick Barney, a senior chemistry major from Kansas City, Mo., spent the summer at Kansas State University researching a technique for the early detection of cancer.

Barney discovered this opportunity through David McCurdy, professor of chemistry, with whom he has done research work since his sophomore year. A Kansas State University alum, McCurdy recommended Barney to Dr. Christopher Culbertson of the school’s chemistry department.

Culbertson has a history of working with Truman students, including five past graduates.

Barney worked alongside graduate students for 10 weeks in Culbertson’s lab developing the cancer-detecting technique.

“Dr. Culbertson’s lab uses devices that can analyze one cell at a time, and the hope is to incorporate that technique into blood screenings in clinics that can be used to detect for cancerous cells in the body,” Barney said.

Although the experience was slightly intimidating at first, Barney soon came into his own in the lab.

“I got very comfortable with it and in the end I was just doing my own thing, so it was perfect. Dr. Culbertson was just a great mentor,” Barney said.

Barney’s work this summer will be put towards a paper with Culbertson that will be submitted to the American Chemical Society. He will also travel with Culbertson to an ACS conference in Anaheim, Calif., in the spring.

“This feels phenomenal,” Barney said. “To be a co-author, I mean, just a handful of undergraduates get that experience.”

Barney is considering going into pathology, the study of disease. He has been offered a position on Culbertson’s research team if he chooses to attend graduate school at Kansas State University. Currently, his top choices are Oregon State or the University of Montana.

Bringing back an expanded knowledge of laboratory instruments and techniques to his last year of Truman has been beneficial for Barney.

“I feel like I’ve gained so much knowledge from that 10 weeks of non-stop working in the laboratory,” Barney said.

Barney encourages other science students to discover the research opportunities they can pursue as undergraduates.

“Here at Truman, you can ask any of the professors who always have research opportunities and research hours. You can even get paid to get involved,” Barney said. “If you want summer research, again just ask professors to network or you can go online to the National Science Foundation website and look up programs.”

Barney serves as the president of Bulldog Biodiesel and a member of the chemistry honor fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma and the American Chemical Society.
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