Wesleyan Chemistry student conducts cancer research at UT

Posted on: August 20, 2013

Wesleyan Chemistry Major Alexa Marlow spent her summer conducting cancer research at UTK.

A summer day at the pool isn’t just an opportunity to get a tan for Alexa Marlow, a chemistry major at Tennessee Wesleyan College. It’s also an opportunity for her to teach her five-year-old son about science. He tells his mother to watch as he slaps the clear water, making waves, amazed that he can make the water splash with his hands. What’s a fun pool experience for her son is also an opportunity for Marlow to explain the physical science of why, when he slaps harder, the waves get bigger.

“I feel like every time my son comes to me, amazed at something new, as a mother I’m excited to share that amazement with him, but as a scientist, I’m even more excited to share what causes the amazing things he’s learning about,” said Marlow, who will graduate from TWC next May with her chemistry degree.

Marlow has not only taken advantage of her studies at Tennessee Wesleyan, but has also participated in summer research at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Marlow was one of eight students selected for UTK’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), a 10-week summer research program where Marlow conducted research on new medicines and delivery techniques for cancer patients.

“The research I did this summer was the building blocks for my future research career,” said Marlow. “I originally chose pre-pharmacy for school but I switched to chemistry so that I could help create medicine. I want to help solve the cancer puzzle and provide easier and more comfortable treatments for cancer patients.”

Marlow’s interest in cancer and cancer medication delivery was inspired by her grandmother’s battle with cancer.

“My grandma had breast cancer and beat it when I was younger,” said Marlow. “Many years later she died of colon cancer, hiding her illness from our family and deciding not to treat it so that we didn’t have to see her go through the intense chemotherapy. As a cancer researcher, I want the work that I do to make cancer treatment plans less evasive so that no one has to battle with the decision to undergo treatment for their disease.”

Encouraged by her Wesleyan professors, Marlow’s hard work in TWC science labs is what prepared her for summer research at UTK.

“I was very excited that Alexa decided to pursue, and was accepted to UTK’s summer research program,” said Dr. Daniel Blumling, TWC assistant professor of chemistry.

“Alexa possesses many of the qualities required to be successful as a researcher: a solid work-ethic, a brilliant mind, and a creative approach to problem-solving.  Her achievements during the program came as no surprise, as I anticipate that she will be successful in all of her future endeavors.”

After she graduates next May from Wesleyan, Marlow plans to continue her education at UTK where she hopes to earn her Ph.D. in organic chemistry.

“I am just so grateful for the learning opportunities I’ve had through Tennessee Wesleyan,” said Marlow. “I’m looking forward to continuing my research and using my knowledge and skills to help others.”