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Biology alumnus participates in prestigious National Cancer Institute fellowship

Rachel Pellegrino Nov 3, 2021

Dr. Samuel A. Sprowls, a Waynesburg alumnus, was selected to be awarded the National Cancer Institute’s Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellowship Transition Award. He was one of 25 graduate students in the country during 2020 to receive this honor.

“I am beyond blessed to have been awarded this fellowship, and it is only just the beginning,” Dr. Sprowls said.

NCI’s Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Transition Award is offered to graduate students interested in pursuing a career in independent cancer research. The award is aimed at supporting graduate students as they complete their predoctoral research training and transition to a mentored postdoctoral research position with a focus on cancer.

“Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be doing today what I am now,” Dr. Sprowls said. “This fellowship is a critical first step in the process of becoming an independent investigator and having a laboratory of my own.”

The classes and labs led by Waynesburg faculty helped to prepare me for success in a variety of ways that I do not believe would have been possible at a larger institution.”

Dr. Samuel A. Sprowls

Dr. Sprowls graduated from Waynesburg University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. In 2021, he received his Ph.D. in pharmaceutical and pharmacological sciences from West Virginia University, under the mentorship of Dr. Paul Lockman.

As a classically trained blood-brain barrier scientist, the predoctoral research of Dr. Sprowls’ fellowship focused on bypassing the blood-brain barrier and developing novel treatment strategies for metastatic brain tumors. This fall, Sprowls began the postdoctoral part of his fellowship and continued his cancer research with the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute under the mentorship of Dr. Justin Lathia.

“In the post-doctoral aim of my fellowship, we hope to identify key, innate sexual differences at the blood-brain barrier that govern molecular response to radiation therapy in patients with glioblastoma, the most common, malignant primary brain tumor,” Dr. Sprowls said. “The overall goal is to identify these differences and to provide potential therapeutic targets to help guide clinical decision making.”

Throughout his career, Dr. Sprowls has received other acclaims for his research. In addition to being the primary author on five manuscripts and a co-author on several other manuscripts, he has had the opportunity to travel the country presenting his work at large national conferences as well as field-specific small meetings.

Many of these experiences and opportunities are a result of the solid foundation Dr. Sprowls received at Waynesburg University.

“Waynesburg's small class sizes provided an immersive education, allowing for relationships between students and professors to develop. Those relationships were a pivotal foundation for getting into graduate school,” said Dr. Sprowls. “The classes and labs led by Waynesburg faculty helped to prepare me for success in a variety of ways that I do not believe would have been possible at a larger institution.”

While Dr. Sprowls has received several accolades throughout his career, his true passion is inspiring the next generation of scientists and positively impacting the world around him.

“The real measure of any health scientist or researcher is the impact that your work has on real people,” Dr. Sprowls said. “I hope that my work is able to translate to the clinic and provide patients a reason for hope. I hope that my work leads to a longer, more sustainable life after diagnosis.”

Learn more about the Waynesburg University Department of Biology, Environmental Science and Health Science