Biology Student Earns Prized Spot in Research Program

June 15, 2011

Biology Student Saint Leo University biology major January Watters has landed one of the highly competitive spots in the Summer Program for the Advancement of Research Knowledge (SPARK) at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. The SPARK program typically admits only about 20 students each year. The 10-week internship pairs undergraduates interested in biomedical careers with a research mentor working at Moffitt.

Watters is “learning the techniques that are right at the forefront of biology, and she is also working in cancer research,” said Iain Duffy, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at Saint Leo, and one of Watters’ mentors.

Her success demonstrates the possibilities open to Saint Leo science students who take advantage of small classes and opportunities for individualized attention, Dr. Duffy said.

Watters has not only worked part-time at the university as a laboratory assistant, she has spent school vacations pursuing additional research. Watters and a fellow student worked with Dr. Duffy over the winter investigating influences on new blood vessel formation. Those efforts led to a joint poster presentation during Florida State University College of Medicine’s Life Sciences Symposium in January 2011. Watters’ continued work on the topic led to another presentation, during the March 2011 meeting of the Florida Academy of Sciences at Florida Institute of Technology.

She began her SPARK internship June 1, and after days in the lab devotes many hours to reading research studies. Her upper-level science classes at Saint Leo in immunology, virology, genetics and biochemistry has proven “very helpful in understanding many aspects of my research project,” she said.

Watters will graduate from Saint Leo in 2012.