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Commencement speaker to discuss challenges, hopes of college life

Updated May 05, 2014

Amanda “Mandy” Peine has been chosen to be the speaker at NDSU’s spring commencement ceremony, which is scheduled for Saturday, May 17, at 10 a.m. in the Fargodome.

“I’m excited to do this. It is such an honor to be chosen to represent my class,” said Peine, a native of Vermillion, Minn., who will receive a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in accounting. “My theme will be that our whole time here really has been a series of ‘Fs.’ I’m not talking about the freezing winters, flat ground or flooding. Rather, talking about our fears and failures, and how we got through them because of friends, faculty and family.”

Highly active on the NDSU campus, Peine participated in Saddle and Sirloin Club, Blue Key Honor Society, Panhellenic Council, Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority and Accounting Club.

“When I first came here, I told myself the first day as a freshman that I was going to make the most of each and every day,” she said of her full schedule of activities. “That was important to me and I wanted to dive into everything.”

Peine was elected the Saddle and Sirloin Cub’s Outstanding Senior this year. She also was named queen of the 87th Little International Show in 2013, served as co-master of ceremonies for the 85th Little “I” and was co-chair of the 2014 Bison Brevities talent show.

“I have never woken up regretting my decision to come to NDSU. I’d like to stay here at NDSU forever – I’ve loved each and every second,” Peine said. “It’s the community you’re surrounded by; the type of people who tend to be here are amazing. It’s better than I could have ever thought when I was planning to go to college.”

She also was involved with a number of service projects as a student, including activities for the Great Plains Food Bank, Relay-for-Life, Hoops for Hannah, Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, Dorothy Day Food Pantry, Salvation Army, Project Linus and Bethany Homes.

Others easily recognize Peine’s personal determination and zeal for getting involved.

“Mandy has held numerous key positions that have given her the opportunity to be the ‘face and voice’ of the Saddle and Sirloin Club,” wrote James Kirsch, lab coordinator in animal science and co-adviser for the club, in a letter of recommendation. “Mandy has that passion, drive and enthusiasm that permeates the club which is recognized by students.”

James Clifton, associate professor of accounting practice, wrote, “She is an open and interesting person. I believe that Amanda will go far in life and will be a leader in that life.”

Peine has already taken a first big step to success in her professional life. She has been accepted into the John Deere Finance Development Program, where she will hold positions at three locations during the next three years. She starts in Fargo and she hopes it will be the start of a long career with the company.

She is the daughter of Mark and Julie Peine of Vermillion, Minn.

NDSU student earns prestigious Truman scholarship

Updated April 28, 2014

NDSU junior Robbie Lauf has received the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship. He is the first NDSU student to receive the honor since 1986.

Lauf, who served as NDSU student body president during the 2013-2014 school year, is one of only 59 Truman Scholars chosen for their academic success, leadership and potential for a future in public service.

“It’s definitely been something on my wish list of life experiences to receive the Truman Scholarship,” said Lauf, a political science and economics major who will receive up to $30,000 for graduate studies. “It was an exciting experience to go through the process, whether I got it or not. I was very pleasantly surprised that it happened as it did.”

Lauf was selected from among 655 candidates nominated by 293 colleges and universities. Truman Scholars were selected by 17 independent selection panels that included elected officials, university presidents, federal judges and past Truman Scholarship winners.

In a letter of support, NDSU president Dean L. Bresciani called Lauf “a participant leader who serves as a change agent through his various roles, responsibilities and leadership activities.

“His intellectual curiosity, motivation, charisma and natural proclivity toward successful roles will be well suited to substantial tasks and challenges,” Bresciani wrote. “He approaches such opportunities enthusiastically, and as a result consistently leaves things in a better position than when he found them.”

Lauf was an NDSU student lobbyist to the North Dakota legislature for the 2012-13 academic year. He worked with state legislators and the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education on various issues related to higher education.

Lauf, who is from Mayville, N.D., began to think about a career as a public servant as a high school senior when he was selected for the United States Senate Youth Program. Through the program, he visited Washington, D.C., and met with a justice of the Supreme Court and President Barack Obama.

“I see public service as a way to further the relationship between our state government, local government and the people it serves,” Lauf said.

The Truman Scholarship Foundation was started in 1975. The foundation awards scholarships to students who attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or other public service venues.

The 2014 Truman Scholars are scheduled to assemble on May 22 for a leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. The scholarship recipients will receive their awards in a ceremony on May 25 at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Mo.

Truman Scholars receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some of the nation’s premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career counseling and internship opportunities with the federal government.

Grad student wins innovation award for research on promising cancer-fighting agent

Updated April 28, 2014

Shuang Zhou had long wanted to become a doctor.

But her own physician father discouraged her from the occupation, saying it was too stressful and exhausting.

Still intrigued by human health, Zhou decided to become a different kind of doctor. When she came to NDSU in 2010 as a graduate of China Pharmaceutical University, she focused on a doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences. In the process, she could devote herself to research. “And then I could help many more people,” she says.

Already, Zhou’s goal is becoming reality. She recently won the product category in NDSU’s Innovation Challenge ’14, a competition that recognizes student teams for new, progressive products and services. The 27-year-old doctoral student headed NewCure, a research team that is developing a new therapeutic agent for neuroblastoma, a form of cancer that most commonly affects children and infants. NewCure’s project won a $5,000 first prize, as well as  $1,000 for the overall People’s Choice honor.

Zhou and her team focused on an agent called salinomycin, a common antibiotic for animals, which emerged as a promising cancer-fighting compound several years ago. It’s hopeful news for the one-in-three people who will develop cancer during their lifetime, she says.

Up until recently, cancer specialists have had to rely on a blunt-instrument approach when it came to treating cancer. Most chemotherapy is designed to kill fast-growing cancer cells, but will also indiscriminately wipe out fast-growing healthy cells, such as cells in hair and the digestive tract. (This explains why chemo patients lose their hair and develop serious nausea.). And while chemo or radiation will destroy the bulk of tumor cells, they will not eliminate cancer stem cells, a small population of cells within tumors that drive tumor growth and recurrence. As a result, conventional treatments often cause major, long-term side effects and a higher risk of cancer relapse.

But salinomycin is a “smart” drug. In 2009, MIT and Harvard researchers screened 16,000 natural and commercial chemical compounds to identify those which most effectively inhibited breast cancer stem cells. Salinomycin not only spared healthy cells, it showed 100-fold greater potency at inhibiting cancer stem cells than paclitaxel, a commonly used breast-cancer chemotherapy drug.

Working with adviser Erxi Wu, Zhou’s team expanded testing of salinomycin to human neuroblastoma cells. Neuroblastoma is one of the most commonly diagnosed forms of solid tumors in children and infants, and is a leading cause of mortality in children.

They also studied salinomycin’s effects on medulloblastoma, brain cancer, cells and pancreatic cancer cells. In all three cases, they discovered the agent markedly inhibited cell proliferation and the formation of tumorsphere, a spheroid composed of cancer stem cells.

Although salinomycin shows great potential, researchers still hadn’t pinpointed the exact mechanism that makes it work at the molecular level. So the NewCure team did extensive screening to determine how the drug might affect specific molecules within cancer stem cells. They identified two proteins as the binding factors to specific molecules in cancer stem cells. Elevated levels of either of these binding factors could indicate poor prognosis for neuroblastoma patients, Zhou says. This could help cancer researchers develop screening and prognostic kits for the cancers that NewCure studied.

The next steps for Zhou’s salinomycin work are to proceed on to animal studies and develop a screening kit. And because the antibiotic has already been tested and used on mammals for years, it may take less time to hit the market as a cancer drug, Zhou says.

Besides her recent NDSU award, Zhou also will travel to San Diego in late April to accept a Young Investigator Award from the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine.

Despite the kudos, Zhou is quick to point out that her research resulted from Wu’s mentorship and the hard work of her team, research associate Fengfei Wang and graduate student Ying Zhang.

Their success is more than Zhou could have hoped for when she was checking out graduate programs in the United States. She came to NDSU because of Wu, an assistant professor in pharmaceutical sciences, who enthusiastically encouraged her to come to Fargo to pursue her research. “Together we can cure cancer,” he told her.

Now, Zhou believes she could truly find a solution to help cancer patients.

“This is even bigger than my original dream,” she says.

Students develop healthy, corn-based hummus

Updated April 15, 2014

Sometimes a good recipe can be great for the pocketbook. Just ask three NDSU students who developed a tasty, healthy food product that took the $5,000 top prize in the corn category of the recent Innovation Challenge ’14.

The competition highlighted outstanding, innovative work by NDSU students, and was the showcase event of the fifth annual Innovation Week held on campus March 3-7.

The winning project, called “Hum-HealthyPlus,” had a goal to provide nutritional, cost-effective hummus for customers who consume gluten-free products.

Dwight Anderson, a senior majoring in zoology from Hankinson, N.D.; Tyler Lewandowski, a senior majoring in zoology from Foley, Minn.; and Lukshman Ekanayake, a graduate student in cereal science from Kurunegala, Sri Lanka, developed the recipe that primarily uses corn flour and lentils, which are both produced in North Dakota.

“Since all three of us are pursuing careers in the health field we wanted to develop a product that would help combat one of the biggest health issues –obesity – facing our country today,” Anderson said. “It also was very pleasing for me personally to develop a product that used locally grown crops since my father farms in this area and grows corn.”

The team found that coming up with the right combination of ingredients was not an easy process. It took time, effort and a lot of tasting.

“It was really interesting to see how slight ratio changes could make huge differences in the taste and texture of the product,” explained Lewandowski. “Deciding to make it a corn-based product was an epiphany that really worked out for us.”

The team used different types of lentils prepared in a variety of ways, and tried different proportions with corn and flax seed. “There were many times we only tasted the product once before throwing it away and starting over,” Anderson said of the development process. “We finally had a product that tasted good.”

As they worked, the students learned from the experience, which is a major aim of the annual Innovation Challenge.

“The competition gave me a greater understanding and appreciation of all the time and issues that need to be addressed when trying to turn a new idea into a reality,” Lewandowski said.

Supported by the North Dakota Corn Council, the corn track of the Innovation Challenge is intended to give a platform for creative ideas for new corn-based products. This was the second year for the corn track in the competition.

“Consumers today are much more health conscious and gluten-free products are more popular than ever. It’s outstanding to have a team address so many different emerging trends and innovations in one project – gluten-free, healthy and cost effective,” said Chuck Hoge, interim executive director of the NDSU Research and Technology Park, noting the Corn Council also participates in advisory committee meetings to shape the focus of the Innovation Week events. “All of the hummus ingredients are abundantly found in North Dakota, so their use would stimulate demand in our local economy.”

Meantime, team members hope their efforts will develop into a commercial enterprise, with their recipe eventually reaching consumers.

“It was a challenge, as well as a great opportunity, for us to leverage innovative thinking and experiences into the successful development of healthy and tasty corn-based hummus,” Ekanayake said. “It’s a proud feeling to be in the Bison family and on the winning team of the Innovation Challenge.”

The Hum-HealthyPlus” team was advised by Dil Thavarajah, assistant professor in the School of Food Systems.

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Vice President for University Relations
North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-1068 - Fax: (701) 231-1989
Campus address: Old Main 204
Mailing address: Dept 6000 PO Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Page manager: NDSU University Relations

Last Updated: Thursday, May 15, 2014 11:01:38 AM