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      Posters on the Hill

      Computer Science Students Share Cancer Research on Capitol Hill

      By Carlie Sisco '19, English and creative writing

      Capital on the Hill presentation

      Capitol Hill

      Professor Suk-Chung Yoon and senior computer science majors Jeremy Hofer and Abhay Aradhya attend Posters on the Hill in Washington D.C.

      A cancer treatment therapy research project led by two Widener students was among the 60 selected recently for presentation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The students and their project were chosen through a highly competitive process that involved more than 400 applications, judged by a national panel of experts.

      Senior computer science majors Jeremy Hofer and Abhay Aradhya were selected to present their research “Computer Assisted Discovery of Small Molecule Cancer Immunotherapeutics” during Posters on the Hill, an annual event hosted by the Council on Undergraduate Research. The experience also provided an opportunity for advocacy, as they talked with lawmakers about their work.

      The two students, along with Director of Faculty Research Development and Professor of Computer Science Suk-Chung Yoon, traveled on April 17 and 18 to share the research with members of Congress and their staffs, federal government officials, academics, and others to demonstrate the value of federal investment in undergraduate research.

      For Hofer, the opportunity to conduct and present cancer research was meaningful professionally as well as personally. This June, Hofer will be 10 years cancer free after surviving his battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma as a teenager.

      “The fact that I have been able to help contribute research in the fight against cancer, an illness that has had a significant impact on my life and the lives of many I have met over the years, is amazing,” Hofer said. “I am very proud that I have been presented an opportunity to fight against cancer in such a meaningful and important way.”

      Hofer and Aradhya have been working to use comprehensive computational simulations and analysis to discover small molecules that may be developed into inexpensive, yet effective, immunotherapy drugs to treat a variety of cancers.

      Capitol on the Hill poster presentation

      Representative Fitzpatrick

      Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick meets with Professor Yoon and seniors Jeremy Hofer and Abhay Aradhya after they presented their research "Computer Assisted Discovery of Small Molecule Cancer Immunotherapeutics."

      The research is a collaboration between Computer Science and Chemical Engineering. Aradhya and Hofer worked closely with Yoon and School of Engineering Interim Dean Sachin Patil. The pair also partnered with chemical engineering students Michelle DiFrancesco, Steve Finocchario, Jabari Mani, Sean Tevis, Mike Visconti, and Griffin Walawender.

      “Our research aims to use computers to find drugs that can perform the same actions as existing immunotherapy drugs, but aim to resolve the existing problems,” Hofer said.

      Aradhya said the experience on Capitol Hill emphasized the importance of sharing undergraduate research to policymakers who have the power to direct more resources.

      “Being able to talk to Congress members and leaders in various fields gave a sense of legitimacy that the work we were doing could make a real impact if it reached the right ears,” Aradhya said. “Not only were we representing our research, but we were representing undergraduate research as a whole. It helped me understand just how important it is to be vocal about the work we’re doing.”

      In his 27 years at Widener, Yoon has supervised more than 80 undergraduate research projects with the hope that every undergraduate student at Widener will have a similar opportunity.

      “The goal of undergraduate education is to provide students with the means and motivation to educate themselves,” Yoon said. “I hope that every undergraduate student at Widener will have an opportunity to work closely with faculty to advance his/her knowledge through research discoveries and then to present his or her findings to a national conference.”


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