KU News Release

Aug. 10, 2010
Contact: Mike Krings, University Relations, (785) 864-8860

Graduate student earns fellowship for promising cancer drug research

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas graduate student Laura Peterson is one of only seven students in the nation to receive a prestigious predoctoral fellowship from the American Chemical Society’s Division of Medicinal Chemistry.

Peterson, a fourth-year doctoral student from Colorado Springs, Colo., will receive a $24,000 stipend with the award. She was recognized for her work in the lab of Brian Blagg, professor of medicinal chemistry.

“Our lab focuses on heat shot protein 90,” Peterson said. “We investigate small molecules that have the potential for the treatment of several diseases, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. We are interested in how these compounds interact with Hsp90 and what biological effects result from this interaction.”

Hsp90 is a protein necessary for cancer cells to proliferate. Peterson and Blagg take natural and synthetic compounds, modify them and investigate their ability to prevent the growth of cancer cells with the goal of discovering new drugs to treat cancer.

Peterson earned a bachelor’s from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. A graduate of Rampart High School, she is the daughter of Barbara and Steve Peterson. She said she’s always been interested in sciences and chose to come to KU and work with Blagg because of her desire to perform research with medical relevance.

Blagg said Peterson has been an outstanding contributor in the three years they have worked together.

“Laura is a very smart and tenacious individual who is always looking forward and asking the right questions,” Blagg said. “Her research has gone phenomenal thus far, and she has made some significant contributions to medicinal chemistry and our field of study. Not only is she independent, but she is also very good at organizing experiments and projects. She exhibits a very unique attribute of conducting research both in chemistry as well as in biology. She is multidimensional in every aspect, including a very vibrant personality. She is an outstanding scholar and researcher.”

Peterson and the class of fellows will present their research at the National American Chemical Society conference in August 2011 in Denver, Colo. After completing her doctorate, Peterson hopes to either work in the academic field or for an institution such as the National Institutes of Health and continue research.

Peterson is the third KU graduate student to receive an American Chemical Society fellowship in the past three years. Last year, Allison Donnelly, who also works with Blagg, earned the honor. In 2008, Micah Niphakis was selected for a fellowship. Aaron Wrobleski was KU’s first winner in 2002.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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