Camarillo, Calif., May 7, 2012 – An $8,000 grant will enable CSU Channel Islands (CI) junior Laura Milbrandt to spend her summer researching a protein that has been linked to a variety of cancers.

The biology major from Ventura recently learned that she was one of 25 students in the 23-campus CSU system to win a CSUPERB Presidents’ Commission Scholar Award.  The new grant aims to encourage students’ interest in biotechnology careers by financially supporting their biotechnology-related laboratory-, field-, clinic- or community-based summer research. 

“It’s a dream come true,” Milbrandt said.  “I’m passionate about research because I love solving complex problems, discovering new things, and thinking outside the box.  It can be a challenge to balance research, coursework, and a part-time job during the regular school semester.  Due to this award, I will be able to turn my full attention to research.”

Milbrandt’s research project focuses on the study of the protein TCTP (Translationally-Controlled Tumor Protein) and its role in the mTOR/Rheb pathway, which has been implicated in a variety of cancers.  She will spend the summer in the lab creating site-directed mutants of the protein and studying its effect on mammalian cells, using a variety of techniques such as cell culture, polymerase chain reaction, immunoblotting and fluorescence microscopy.

“I’m excited to work on this project because it addresses a human condition and has the potential to improve on the cancer treatments we currently have,” Milbrandt said.  “TCTP has been linked to many cancers, but it is not completely understood in the scientific community.  We are seeking to better understand how this protein functions.”

Milbrandt attributes much of the credit for her award to CI Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Nitika Parmar, who encouraged her to apply, helped her draft her proposal, and will mentor and supervise her on the project.

“Laura is an enthusiastic and motivated scientist,” Parmar said.  “As a researcher, she has all the ingredients required of a dedicated biologist.  As a person, she adapts to challenges easily and works very well in a team.  And as a student, she is disciplined, organized and vigilant of what is expected of her.  I’m thrilled that her hard work has paid off.”

Milbrandt will present her research at the CSU Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach this summer and submit a final report to the CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB) in the fall.

After graduating from CI, Milbrandt hopes to earn her Ph.D. in biology and continue working in biotechnology research.

“The amazing research opportunities and individualized attention available at CI has allowed me to gain valuable skills and experiences that will be very useful for me as I pursue a higher degree,” Milbrandt said.  “It has reinforced my appreciation for biological research and has opened many doors.”

For more information on the CSUPERB Presidents’ Commission Scholar Award, visit

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CSU Channel Islands 
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