King School's Advanced Math and Science Research (AMSR) Program: Spotlight on Mallory Ehlers '19
Mallory Ehlers, New Canaan resident and senior, is one of four students in the King School's Advanced Mathematics and Science Research (AMSR) Program and she is very excited to have been given this opportunity. Each year, a small group of students who clearly demonstrate an ability and interest in achieving true excellence within science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics will be selected for independent study and competition preparation, and/or a laboratory research experience, based on the rigorous standards of AMSR.
Mallory is working with Dr. Jan Grimm, M.D., Ph.D., a physician scientist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, NY. Working alongside graduate students at Weill Cornell Medical College, Mallory's work focuses on the development of novel and innovative molecular imaging approaches for cancer diagnostics, primarily based on activatable imaging agents. These approaches combine and utilize modern biology, nanotechnology, chemistry, and physics with modern imaging methods (MRI, optical imaging, PET, and Cerenkov) to create novel imaging agents that allow much earlier detection and improved therapy monitoring of cancer.
Mallory spent 40 hours per week for nine weeks last summer at the Grimm Lab and spends 2-3 hours per week during the school year. Her project involves studying and researching new ways to transport medication to prostate, breast, and colon cancer tumors without causing additional harm to the patient, as is often the case with current chemotherapy methods. She is studying a transport technique that involves loading medications onto ferumoxytol (iron oxide) particles and then treating different cells lines with these loaded nanoparticles. Mallory comments, "I cannot explain the rush I felt from using the results of one test to find the next step in my research process. As I form graphs with the data points I collect, I see the hours of ideas and hypotheses fuse to form decipherable results and next steps that I need to take."
Towards the end of the summer, Mallory began working with a new drug: Catechin. Catechin, a natural antioxidant found in green tea, has never been used in the United States and has never been tested with the transport technique she is studying. Mallory remarks, "This experience has definitely impacted me greatly. I am truly motivated by the fact that my own research, though one small step in the overall process, could advance treatments for cancer patients, and I am very excited to continue my research throughout the school year via the AMSR Program."
Mallory finished Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus BC, AP Chemistry, and AP Computer Science A last year as a Junior and is currently taking Multivariable Calculus, AP Physics C, AP Biology, AP Psychology, AP French, and AP Literature. Mallory runs cross country and serves as the captain of the softball team. She also enjoys music and has a passion for ceramics. She recently earned her Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification and will be volunteering for a local volunteer ambulance corps this fall.
As for her future, Mallory wants to pursue biomedical engineering and possibly minor in neuroscience. She has applied to some of the top 25 colleges in the country and plans to go to graduate school for either medicine or research.