Two Pelotonia Fellowships Have Funded This Young Scientist’s Career
Something strange happened to Nicholas Denton and his mountain bike as they rode the 100-mile Pelotonia route this year.
“My gears weren’t working, they got stuck in a hard gear,” said Nick, a student in Ohio State’s Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program.
And, to make the pedaling even harder, “my brake was rubbing against my tire,” he said.
Mechanics at one of the rest stops were able to fix the brake issue, but there was nothing they could do about the balky derailleur.
“I did have to walk up a couple of hills, but I kept going and finished,” Nick said of his first 100-mile ride. “That bike is retired, and I’ll see if I can get a road bike for next year.”
Finishing was important, as Pelotonia has become an important part of Nick’s professional and personal lives. He received an undergraduate Pelotonia Fellowship that funded his research in the lab of Balveen Kaur, PhD. More recently, he received a graduate Pelotonia Fellowship that funds his research in the lab of Tim Cripe, MD, PhD.
Nick came to Ohio State in 2009. He first learned of Pelotonia during his sophomore year.
“I thought it was perfect, that the funds were specifically for cancer research and that it is so community driven,” he said. “And, the ride sounded interesting.”
His Pelotonia Fellowship research in both labs has focused on viral immunotherapy, which is a new and promising area or cancer research. Also called oncolytic virotherapy, it uses genetically altered viruses that have shown the ability to jump start the body’s immune system to help it recognize, fight and destroy cancer cells.
“Cancers cells can trick the body’s immune system into thinking they’re a wound that needs to be healed and then the body actually helps them grow,” Nick explained. “With oncolytic virotherapy, it helps the immune system recognize the tumor as a pathogen – or germ – that needs to be removed.”
Nick is about halfway through grad school. After he earns his PhD, the next step is a post-doc fellowship at a major cancer center. Ohio State is at the top of his list. Nick loves the collaborative nature of the scientists he’s met, been mentored by and worked with.
“It’s one of the larger research centers and the size and breadth of the research means there’s overlap, you can always find someone else doing something similar to what you’re doing and work with them,” he said.
Hey, hang on. There are Pelotonia Fellowships awarded for post docs with a promising research proposal. Any interest Nick?
“I would absolutely consider it,” Nick said.
His wife, Bethany, has ridden Pelotonia in the past. She was unable to ride this year, as she was expecting the couple’s first child.
Nick is a huge fan of the Pelotonia Fellowship Program and believes it’s had three major impacts.
The first: Funding for labs “that otherwise wouldn’t be available.”
Second: The experience of applying for and going through the rigorous peer-review process that awards Pelotonia Fellowships. “In academia it’s so important to learn how to apply and design a multi-year research plan.”
Third: How Pelotonia connects researchers with the community, which in turn inspires these scientists. “Without that reminder from Pelotonia, it can get frustrating at times and you wonder if you’re spending your time wisely,” Nick said of the rigors of research. “But when you see the community come together in support of Pelotonia, it keeps you going, even on a bad day.”
Even if your gears are sticky.
Steve Wartenberg is a journalist, cyclist and longtime Pelotonia Rider. Steve is one of just a
handful who have pedalled every mile of every Pelotonia. This year he is going above and beyond his fundraising efforts as a High Roller! firstname.lastname@example.org.