CSUN Researchers Provide Platform for Interdisciplinary Exchange in First-Ever CSU Cancer Meeting

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Jonathan Kelber working with CSUN student Erika Duell in his research lab. Photo by Allen Birnbach.

A team of California State University, Northridge cancer researchers is hosting the first-ever California State University – Interdisciplinary Cancer Meeting (CSU-ICM) this fall.

The inaugural CSU-ICM will provide faculty and trainees from all 23 CSU campuses, regional research universities and the general public access to sessions on interdisciplinary cancer research that put into action the core mission elements of the CSU system, including advancing of scientific knowledge, learning and discovery; professional development; and preparing a diverse scientific workforce.

Joan Brugge, the current director of the Harvard Ludwig Center and professor of cell biology at Harvard Medical School, will be keynote speaker. Brugge is renowned in the field of cancer research for her early discovery of a protein that was the first of its kind and has since been a highly sought after target for developing anti-cancer therapies. For this and her seminal contributions since, Brugge has received numerous accolades, including the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor, which is given annually to a scientist who has made a significant research contribution with lasting impact or important discoveries within the cancer field. She has been an elected member of the United States National Academy of Sciences since 2001 — election to the National Academies is one of the highest honors in scientific research.

“Dr. Brugge is one of the most well-respected cancer researchers in the world,” said Jonathan Kelber, a CSUN associate professor of biology and chair of the CSU-ICM organizing committee. “Having the opportunity to have her here on campus as the keynote speaker for the CSU-ICM is exceptional for our campus and the CSU community. Beyond her scientific accomplishments, Dr. Brugge has an exceptional reputation for her success in mentoring young scientists. Her current research group consists of 30 trainees, including undergraduates, graduates, and post-doctorate students; and, many of her past trainees are leaders in the field of cancer research. Needless to say, the name Joan Brugge is synonymous with the highest level of scientific rigor and a genuine concern for developing the next generation of researchers to tackle the biggest questions in cancer research.”

The meeting will take place from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, at the Plaza Del Sol Performance Hall, located in the University Student Union on the east side of campus at 18111 Nordhoff Street in Northridge. While there is a nominal fee for attending the day-long event, the organizing committee has made Brugge’s 4 p.m. keynote open to the entire campus community for free.

“The focus of this meeting is to bring together people and research labs like mine, that focus on tackling problems in cancer using cellular and molecular methods,” said Kelber said. “We want to also bring together non-traditional disciplines like math, physics, engineering, and even psychology. “The idea is that by bringing these folks together to exchange thoughts and to hear talks and see presentations, this might spark some new efforts to address unmet needs in cancer research.”

CSUN graduate student and CSU-ICM organizer Sa La Kim creates breast cancer samples to analyze in the lab. Photo by Luis Garcia.

As a researcher, it can be easy to have a narrow view of how to approach certain problems, Kelber said.

“For example, when I think of cancer research, I think of questions about molecules, about cells and about how patients respond to therapies,” he continued.

“But, when you bring into the room a mathematician or an engineer, they have a really different set of skills and expertise. So, we would like to see how we might be able to apply those types of skills to answer the same, or even new questions, to what we would usually be trying to answer.”

Daniel Tamae, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and a member of the CSU-ICM organizing committee, said the meeting’s inception came from a discussion in passing with Kelber and their colleague, Crystal Rogers, a CSUN assistant professor of biology.

“We both share a strong desire to create a forum for faculty and students from across the CSU system to interact and foster the cross-pollination of ideas and approaches in cancer research,” Tamae said. “Since those initial discussions, students and post-doc trainees on the organizing committee have applied for and obtained a meeting grant from the AmericanSociety of Cell Biology (ASCB). Dr. Kelber has been a force in lining up the plenary speakers, securing corporate and institutional donors and coordinating the logistics for the meeting.”

The meeting is scheduled to include an opening address from breast cancer survivor and research advocate, Michele Atlan, two faculty-and-trainee-talk sessions, a poster session over lunch and Brugge’s lecture.

To register for the event or for more information, visit: www.csu-icm.org

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