February 17, 2015
By Anna Pohlad '15
Some might call it beginner's luck. Emma Bonglack would rather call it good research.
Bonglack, a sophomore at the College of Saint Benedict, was one of 20 people to win an award for cancer research work she presented at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students.
This conference was held in the middle of November in San Antonio, Texas. It is geared toward undergraduate students who previously spent time doing biomedical research. Bonglack presented her research to four judges as well as to students, faculty members and many other professionals in the biomedical field.
"It's always fun showing people the hard work you've done and see what others have been doing," Bonglack said.
However, Bonglack's journey did not begin at this conference. Originally from Cameroon, a country in central Africa, Bonglack moved to Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, when she was 12. At a very young age, she became interested in science and the medical field.
CSB offered her an opportunity to study biochemistry and pursue her interest in the medical field through the FoCuS program. This program brings incoming first-year students to campus the summer before their first semester to take a variety of courses and labs in chemistry. These students are given mentors and advisers in their department, whom they gain valuable advice and guidance from throughout their years in school.
It was through the FoCuS program that Bonglack first heard of a research opportunity which eventually led her to the conference in San Antonio.
"I didn't know there were research opportunities like this out there. Through this program, I found out I could spend my summer conducting biomedical research at other universities, thereby gaining more exposure," said Bonglack, who hopes to pursue a career in medicinal and drug development research.
Last summer, Bonglack spent time conducting pancreatic cancer research at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She specifically investigated how different anti-cancer drugs affected certain pathways in the body. This research enabled her to predict what treatments decreased or increased the size of certain cancer cells, paving the way for further research to be done.
Bonglack faced many challenges while spending 10 weeks doing research in North Carolina. However, she also found it to be a very gratifying experience.
"The connections I gained were a major reward," Bonglack said. "I am still in contact with my mentor and principal investigator. They give me advice on how to prepare for graduate school and how to prepare for my career."
After finishing her research, Bonglack then submitted an abstract in order to participate in the conference and led her to win the award.
When Bonglack isn't spending time doing research and school work, she enjoys dancing. Bonglack is a member of the fall dance team at CSB and is a member of the Element Dance Club on campus.
"Having a good balance between my school work and social life, as well as having supportive mentors and family members and friends are really important to me," Bonglack said.