After transferring to SUNY Potsdam his junior year, Logan Running ’17 quickly found his path working on cutting-edge nanoparticle research in the chemistry department—research with the potential to treat cancer more effectively, and with less harmful side effects.
When he first came to SUNY Potsdam from Jefferson Community College, Running was nervous about fitting in and catching up with other students. The first week on campus he joined the rugby team and became fast friends with his teammates. He also became close friends with his classmates in the chemistry department and formed a bond with Dr. Maria Hepel, a SUNY Distinguished Professor who has been teaching at the College for the past 33 years.
"Potsdam has been fantastic! Honestly, I didn’t know where I was going to spend my last two years (after community college). I was really nervous because I didn’t know anyone from Potsdam. My first week I joined the rugby team and I made countless numbers of friends."
“It’s been fantastic! Dr. Hepel has given me so much. I’m going to be perfectly honest, when I first started in her lab, I was surprised that she let me in. I was not a great lab student, I was average at best. I did my experiments—half of them worked. Even though I wasn’t great at what I was doing, I would try and if I messed up, I would try again. I’ve had so much growth because of her. Every time I stumbled or couldn’t figure out what to do next, she helped me,” Running said.
For the past two and a half years, Running has been working in Hepel’s chemistry lab to find efficient and less harmful methods of carrying chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells. The problem with current cancer treatment is that healthy cells are also negatively affected by the chemotherapy drugs. But, by using gold and silver nanoparticles, the drugs can be carried directly to the target site. Running has been working with very small colloidal particles know as gold nanostars, to see how effective they are at administering cancer drugs. Since cancer cells are more acidic than healthy cells, Running has been able to create chemical interactions so his gold nanostars deliver drugs directly to an acidic environment like a cancer cell.
“What we’re trying to do is to show that the nanostars not only carry the drug that we’re equipping it with, but we also want to show that it can release the drug when we want it to. We don’t want it to release the drug into healthy cells,” Running said.
Running has been exposed to graduate-level research while working with Hepel. He also attended two national American Chemical Society conferences where he presented his research findings—a rare opportunity for an undergraduate student. This summer he attended the Northeast Nano Materials Meeting in Lake Placid, N.Y. as one of only two students at the conference who were not either in graduate school or working professionally. “It’s been a fantastic opportunity! This is a fantastic lab for any undergraduate student who thinks they want to go to grad school,” he said.
Despite his own feelings of inadequacy when he first transferred to SUNY Potsdam, he has excelled under the guidance of Hepel and professors like Dr. Martin Walker and Dr. Fadi Bou-Abdallah—graduating summa cum laude. “Dr. Fadi was a very helpful as a teacher. He always went the extra mile to help us with our problems. Physical Chemistry is a really scary course for undergraduate students, and Dr. Fadi was like, ‘it’s easy, don’t worry about it.’ It’s been a great experience. I kind of wish I could go back two years and do it all over again,” Running said.
Running was accepted into a Ph.D. program in chemistry at the University of Buffalo this fall where his work as a teaching assistant will completely pay for his graduate studies. He will be working as a teaching assistant in a general chemistry lab, helping undergraduates with their coursework, proctoring tests and conducting his own research.
His advice to current students is to avoid procrastination and to seek out help when you need it. “If you’re feeling like you’re going to give up, tell someone. Tell your mentor so they can help you. I can’t say that I didn’t think about giving up, but I was just lucky enough to have Dr. Hepel keep me on track,” Running said.
Article and photos by Jason Hunter