Dillon Zites ’20 Only Vermont Student Invited to Present Research in D.C. at Annual 2019 “Posters on the Hill”

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Norwich University junior biology major Dillon Zites, of Clarksville, Tennessee. (pictured), represented his research on improving cancer treatment at this year’s Annual Posters on the Hill event on April 29-30 in Washington, D.C.

Hosted by the Council on Undergraduate Research, Posters on the Hill 2019 showcased 60 top student research projects from over 350 applications.

Zites, who serves as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, was the only student chosen from the state of Vermont. Norwich Research Ambassadors are nominated by faculty and peers to promote the Undergraduate Research program by discussing their research at campus and community events, facilitating workshops, and assisting in the planning of Undergraduate Research Program events.

Zites presented on his research titled, “Light Mediated Cancer Treatment Utilizing Cobalamin Derivatives,” on which he has been working under the mentorship of Assistant Professor of Chemistry Thomas Shell.

Watch the WCAX Story About Dillon

The problem they are trying to solve: Chemotherapy drugs cause off-target drug interactions resulting in harmful side effects. Therefore, localized treatment of cancerous cells is vitally important for improving the treatment of the disease. The concept of photopharmecutical therapy (PPT) has been a topic of research for decades due to its potential for localized treatment of cancerous tissue. We have developed molecules that are Vitamin B12 derivatives that result in inactivation of chemotherapy drugs until the molecule is exposed to appropriate light wavelengths that effectively penetrate tissue. Illumination of the molecule causes the release of the active anticancer drug allowing it to have normal biological effects. The Vitamin B12 derivatives target cancerous cells for treatment, in comparison to healthy cells, because of the increased requirement of vitamins for these rapidly dividing cells. These PPT molecules have the potential to improve the treatment of cancer by reducing off-target drug interactions, reducing side effects, and potentially allowing for more potent drugs to be administered due to the ability to target the drug activity to cancerous tissue rather than healthy cells.

“Undergraduates who engage in research develop into independent and critical thinkers who understand that they need to keep questioning, investigating, and analyzing to find and share the answers in their disciplines.” Associate Provost for Research and Chief Research Officer Karen L. Hinkle said. “They learn that communicating novel findings and creative works beyond their departments and schools is essential to impact their local and global communities. Through undergraduate research, they are transformed into scholars, and they take the skills of reasoning, critical analysis, creativity, and discovery beyond the undergraduate years to improve not only their lives but society.”

Over the past decade Norwich University has grown its investment in faculty and undergraduate research of endowed income and reinvested grant overhead to over $800K, to go along with over $17 million of externally acquired research and institutional grants managed by the Office of Academic Research. Over 250 students have conducted research since the Office of Academic Research was created in 2007, thus formalizing research activities at Norwich. The stated goal of the program is: To support and encourage our students to pursue original research, scholarship and creative projects in collaboration with faculty, and to provide funding to allow for exchanging of information and presentation of their work at professional meetings and within the University community.

This research was funded by an award from the Vermont Genetic Network, which is funded by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103449.


Undergraduate Research at Norwich University

About Norwich University

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation's six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). 

Norwich will celebrate its bicentennial in 2019. In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders, Norwich launched the Forging the Future campaign in 2014. The five-year campaign, which is timed to culminate in 2019, is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities and is designed to enhance the university’s strong position as it steps into its third century of service to the nation.

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