Ben Hodapp '17


Ben Hodapp worked as a cancer research fellow in the summer of 2015 at the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Aurora, Colorado.

What were the responsibilities of your internship? What did it entail?Ben Hodapp

Dr. Laurel Lenz and his laboratory, at Colorado University's Anschutz Medical Campus, study the pathways of Type I interferons (IFNs). Type I IFNs have shown some success in triggering apoptosis in cancerous cells but also suppress some of the natural immune responses to cancer through the down regulation of type II IFN receptors. My work in the Lenz lab contributed to the exploration of a novel pathway that moderates the immunosuppressant results of type I IFNs with the aim to improve cancer therapies. We used a transgenic type II IFN receptor not down regulated by type I IFN. My summer fellowship dealt specifically with the ratio of endogenous and transgenic receptors in mice models. 

Type II IFN is critical for the pro-inflammatory activation of macrophages, which have been shown to promote an anti-tumor response in certain types of cancers. The Lenz lab has researched a non-canonical signaling pathway in which type I IFNs suppress macrophage responsiveness to type II IFN through the down regulation of its signaling receptor, IFNGR. To better understand this pathway and its potential role in cancer treatment we used a transgenic mouse model that does not down regulate its transgenic flag-tagged IFNGR in the presence of Type I IFNs.

Throughout my summer, I learned many of the basic skills for collecting, quantifying and analyzing complex data to further understand a fundamental medical science. I have also gone through the process of research writing and presentation including a proposal, poster and abstract. The abstract was published through the cancer fellowship. Seeing the direct correlation between the research done in the Lenz lab and medicine played a pivotal role in my decision to pursue medicine as a career.

How did CSB/SJU prepare you for the internship?

I have found that one of the greatest lessons CSB/SJU impresses on its students is how to approach difficult situations with a critical mind. Medical research requires an inherent desire to understand the "what," "why," "how," "where" and "when" of various bodily processes. The liberal arts education at CSB/SJU encourages students to critically think through challenging problems, which will serve all students in their future career whether it is medicine, business, philosophy, etc. 

Also, my mentors in the ISCI major that have guided me through the research process on multiple occasions significantly increased my comfortability with the fellowship.

What was your favorite memory?

Spending time with others in the lab. All were incredible people and scientists who taught me a great deal about research, patience and living well. 

Advice for students interested in applying for an internship?

Authenticity is key in any application. Set yourself up for success by being genuine in your essays and allow the admissions committee of the internship to decide whether or not you are a good fit.   

Advice to future ISCI students: Treasure the relationships you create with your advisors at CSB/SJU. They are your greatest support and have abundant knowledge. Be sure to thank them for their hard work as often as possible. 

What are your plans after graduation?

I hope to pursue a career in medicine.