Inside Rensselaer
* Megan Salt
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Megan Salt: Charting a Course for Cancer Research
Ask Megan Salt to look to the future and she talks about influencing the direction of cancer research, either as the principal investigator in an academic or industrial setting or as head of a research team.

It’s a fitting objective for a student who, as an undergraduate, spent five semesters working on cancer cell interactions within the micro environment. Her research experience spans two labs at Rensselaer and one at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Salt will receive her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry/biophysics May 17 at Rensselaer’s 202nd Commencement. Then, it’s off to the biomedical sciences program at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where Salt will pursue a Ph.D.

“There are so many undergraduate research opportunities here, and that’s not the case elsewhere,” Salt says. “I didn’t realize that until I began applying to graduate schools and discovered that I had an advantage over many of my peers.”

Already, Salt has assisted with research on mesen-chymal stem cell signaling, adhesion and behavior, and on epithelial cell polarization. She has presented research at poster sessions in Cambridge, Mass., and in Los Angeles, and has been credited as a contributor to an article published in a national research journal.

Earlier this year, Salt won third prize in the Rensselaer Undergraduate Research Forum and Awards, theoretical design research category, for her project, “The Role of Rho Family GTPases in Microtubule Organization During Epithelial Polarization.” The project, which also was the focus of her senior thesis, reflected work done in the lab of Lee Ligon, assistant professor in the Department of Biology.

“A large percentage of cancers are epithelial in origin,” Salt says, “so it makes sense to try to understand how epithelial architecture is maintained.”

Salt is keenly aware of the opportunities she has had at Rensselaer and the role they’ve played in her acceptance into other prestigious programs. She spent last summer at MIT as an undergraduate research intern in the Department of Biological Engineering. The research focused on tissue engineering, seeking ways to develop stem cell-based bone graft technology.

“I would not have been accepted for that internship if I hadn’t already had research experience at Rensselaer,” Salt says. That same experience also was instrumental in her acceptance to the UCSF doctoral program.

“There are so many undergraduate research opportunities here, and that’s not the case elsewhere,” she says. “I didn’t realize that until I began applying to graduate schools and discovered that I had an advantage over many of my peers.”

Although Salt jokes that she spends most days in the lab, her accomplishments indicate that she makes time for other pursuits. A 2006 recipient of Rensselaer’s Founders Award of Excellence, she is vice president of the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society. Salt also is a Woman at Rensselaer Mentor and a member of the Society of Biological Sciences. She played intramural soccer for three seasons at Rensselaer and was a teaching assistant for Introduction to Cell Biology.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 2, Number 9, May 16, 2008
©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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