The Beckman Institute has announced that seven University of Illinois graduate students have been named 2020 Beckman Institute Graduate Fellows, including chemistry graduate student Amanda East.
The program offers University of Illinois graduate students the opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary research at the institute.
East is pursuing a PhD in chemistry and will merge the chemical expertise of chemistry Professor Jefferson Chan's research group with the imaging proficiency of Professor Zhi-Pei Liang's group to develop novel imaging agents and technologies to illuminate cancer properties using fluorine magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging. The 19F-MRSI is similar to traditional MRI machines, however 19F-MRSI allows for tracking of fluorine rather than hydrogen atoms.
Through her project, “Development of a 19F-MRSI pH sensor for interrogating the tumor microenvironment,” East hopes to develop an ultrafast imaging system that will present a new way to study tumor pH in living systems and offer new insights into cancer metastasis and disease progression.
Cancer cells have an altered metabolism, which creates an acidic tumor microenvironment. Acidification of the tumor microenvironment has been correlated to increased tumor immunity, metastasis, and lower patient survival outcome. As such, tumor acidification can be used as a metastatic marker and prognostic tool, and a practical platform to study tumor acidosis in vivo imaging.
East is a second year graduate student in chemistry, who hopes to become a professor at a primarily undergraduate institution after completing her doctorate.