In the spring semester of her first year at Curry, Sarah Tadman ’21 began collaborating with Dr. Sandor Kadar on new research examining the association between electric magnetic fields near power lines and childhood leukemia cases. Now, just weeks before graduating, the Biochemistry major has recently presented her findings – after roughly seven semesters of research – at the New England Science Symposium (NESS).
The annual event is led by Harvard Medical School and features roughly 200 poster presentations each year from some of the most accomplished student researchers in the country, including undergraduates, medical, dental and graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. This year, Tadman presented alongside other students from Tufts, George Washington, Brown and Columbia.
“The topic comes out of epidemiological studies where there had been a notable increase in pediatric leukemia cases for children who live near power lines,” says Tadman. “A lifetime goal would be to help develop therapeutics for cancer patients. However, this research allowed me to consider looking at causes of cancer which would allow for preventive measures to be established, which I appreciated since it gave me an entirely new perspective on future work for myself.”
Working as many as six days a week, Tadman conducted literature reviews and then started experimental laboratory work conducting multiple cell tests to look for changes in cell behavior in controls with and without exposure to low-frequency electromagnetic radiation.
“Though I had met challenges throughout the work when cells didn’t behave the way we expected or having to troubleshoot equipment, I believe it has only strengthened who I am as a scientist,” she says. “I now have a greater understanding of the research field, and I was able to present my research and get a sense of what it will be like when I am working on my own. This project helped me to solidify what I want to do after my Curry career comes to a close, and I couldn’t be happier with the network of mentors and advisors I have built along the way.”
With Commencement imminent, Tadman has started interviewing for professional positions with plans to join the biological research sector in Boston. She also aspires to continue studying cancer and genetics biology in graduate school and credits her time at Curry for helping her identify her career interests.
As her faculty advisor, Dr. Sandor Kadar speaks highly of her achievement presenting at the NESS this year. “After joining our research project, from day one, Sarah has demonstrated unparalleled dedication and commitment,” he says. “While the modeling aspect of the project had been successful, Sarah was the one who jumpstarted the experimental efforts. She has excelled in performing uniquely complex experiments, including developing cell cultures and using a custom-built Helmholtz coil setup (for the electromagnetic field). Arguably both, the modeling and experimental aspects could be considered graduate-level research.”
“The real challenge that she conquered was to combine the modeling and experimental aspects and to present them in a prestigious conference like NESS. This was a stepping stone in her career, and it makes me proud to know I had a small contribution to it,” he adds.
Tadman wasn’t the only student representing Curry College at the NESS. Fellow Biochemistry major Olivia Ambrose ’21 also presented her research on the antimicrobial effects of traditional Chinese medicine combined with common antibiotics, a research project launched by Tiffany Nguyen ’19.
“This research aims to give a possible solution to combat the rise of over prescription of antibiotics in the U.S.,” says Ambrose. “Our bodies develop resistance to antibiotics the more we use them, which is why doctors turn to stronger dosages or longer treatments. Using natural herbal combinations with currently used common antibiotics is not only better for the economy but more importantly for our health.”
For the graduating senior, presenting at the national conference caps a commendable academic career at the College. “The NESS conference was certainly a highlight of my undergraduate career at Curry,” she says. “It’s incredible to have been able to present at NESS with scientists from all over the world ranging from undergrads to those with multiple doctorates, all just sharing our love for science and research.”
Ambrose has plans to become a physician assistant after graduating this spring.