Joelle Martin, a doctoral candidate in Virginia Tech’s Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health (TBMH) Program, was awarded two grants to support her research on a deadly form of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme.

Martin, who will defend her doctoral dissertation in May, received the Zeta Beta Tau Cancer Research Award and a graduate fellowship provided by philanthropist, alumnus, and longtime Virginia Tech benefactor Ray Gaskins ‘64.

“The scholarships have allowed me to pursue my academic interests in a new way by buying products, cell lines, and kits that we haven’t used in the lab before to answer novel questions,” said Martin, who conducts research in the Sontheimer Lab at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. “They’ve allowed me to take more of a creative approach to explore research questions.”

Members of the social fraternity’s Delta Xi Chapter at Virginia Tech created the $3,800 Zeta Beta Tau Cancer Research Award to advance cancer research in memory of brothers who have died from the disease.

“One of the things I have been most impressed with about Joelle is her tremendous grit and clear passion for her work,” said Harald Sontheimer, adjunct professor at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Martin’s mentor, in nominating her for the award. “I know that she comes to lab with the mindset that what she accomplishes has the potential to improve the life of someone suffering with glioblastoma multiforme in the future.”

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The $5,000 graduate student fellowship, donated by Gaskins, is designated for a TBMH student mentored by a Fralin Biomedical Research Institute faculty member.

Martin’s love of science began in a high school Advanced Placement biology class. The course opened up a world of unanswered questions that she felt driven to pursue.

With a focus on cancer biology and neuroscience, her research concentrates on glutamate transport in glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Martin credits her success to support from the TBMH program and the research institute in building a broad foundation of scientific knowledge.

“I was drawn to the collaborative nature of the primary investigators and faculty here,” she said. “I got a glimpse of that when I came and interviewed before I actually decided to join TBMH and during my time here I have found that it is completely true.”

— Written by Dawn Evans

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