A biochemistry graduate, Kevin Scott ’21 is honoring the memory of his uncle and the lives of those still battling cancer through research.
Kevin Scott ’21 learned all too early about the pain of loss. His uncle, who Scott credits with the marriage of his parents and therefore his own life, died from cancer months before Scott was born. Today, the biochemistry graduate is honoring the memory of his uncle and the lives of those still battling cancer through research.
“The idea of doing cancer research in a way that might be able to extend someone’s life, so someone in a similar situation can have the chance to meet their own uncle, I think that’s what makes it all worth it,” Scott says.
Undergraduate research was one of Scott’s major focuses while at Elon. An Honors Fellow, he was one of 15 students in his class selected for the Lumen Prize, the university’s most prestigious award for undergraduate research that provides a $20,000 scholarship to support a two-year, faculty-mentored project. Scott, who was born in Japan and whose mother is Japanese, wanted to examine the prevalence of gastric cancer in East Asia and its potential connection to lifestyles in the region. Gastric cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths worldwide and often found in East Asia.
“We were not going to solve all the world’s problems before Kevin graduated, but it’s nice to see the incremental steps like this that we’re building within the scientific community to do our part.” — Associate Professor of Biology Yuko Miyamoto
The focal point of Scott’s research was the HER2 protein, which is often over-expressed in gastric cancer. He set out to better understand how the HER2 protein might be impacted by the high-salt diets found commonly in East Asia. He hoped to find a correlation between salt intake, the prominence of the HER2 protein and the strength of gastric cancer cells.
Scott’s mentor was Associate Professor of Biology Yuko Miyamoto, who has done extensive work in immunology, molecular and cell biology, and cancer biology. She used her expertise to help keep Scott on track as he carried out his research. Through this experience, she had the opportunity to see him grow as a student and scholar, grasping complicated literature and thriving in the face of adversity. “We were not going to solve all the world’s problems before Kevin graduated, but it’s nice to see the incremental steps like this that we’re building within the scientific community to do our part,” Miyamoto says.
Scott presented his research at Elon’s Spring Undergraduate Research Forum, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and an undergraduate research conference in Japan. And his Lumen project was just the beginning of his work studying cancer. He is currently working as a post-baccalaureate cancer research training fellow at the National Institutes of Health and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in cancer biology.
“I often think about what would have been the difference if I’d gone to a larger state school instead of Elon,” Scott says. “And one of the major differences is that I get to have this one-on-one interaction and connection with Dr. Miyamoto to guide me through this research project that, otherwise, I don’t know where it would be.”
Learn more about “Theme 1: Learn” of the Boldly Elon strategic plan.