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Learmonth Awarded for Cancer Research

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Senior Maya Learmonth was awarded for her presentation Feb. 25 at the Ernest E. Just Scientific Symposium.

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Maya Learmonth, a senior from Austin, Texas, and a student in the Anderson University College of Arts and Sciences, has been studying how Thyme, a Mediterranean herb, can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. 

Learmonth was awarded for her presentation, titled “Mitochondrial Activity and Future Metabolic Profiling of Breast Cell Lines MCF7 and MCF12-A Treated with Thyme, a Mediterranean Herb” at the 22nd Ernest E. Just Scientific Symposium held virtually February 25 at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

Learmonth’s presentation focused on the herb thyme and how its properties affect the growth of cancer cells.

“Essentially we’re treating these rapidly growing cancer cells with these extracts made from thyme and it’s stopping the growth to some extent of these cancer cells. The idea is to be able to keep the healthy cells alive and to kill the cancerous cells at the same concentrations,” Learmonth said.

According to Dr. Diana Ivankovic, director of the Anderson University Center for Cancer Research (2022 A Day Cause), this is the fifth time that an AU student won national research awards at MUSC. Past winners included Jamena Anderson, with Zoe Sanders and Maddie Treaster, winning first place; and Rakish Taylor, Jonathan Low, Eslie Aguilar, winning second place in a national research competition.

Dr. Ivankovic is proud of Learmonth for successfully balancing being a cancer scholar with her being a student-athlete as a member of the Trojan Women’s Volleyball team. Students become cancer scholars based on class rank and recommendations.

“Maya Learmonth managed to shine and represent our university gloriously,” said Dr. Ivankovic. “Maya is working with Ashley Larkins and Niko Khulordava of Clemson University.” Their zoom presentation was impeccable. I am so proud and blessed to have such amazing students work at our Center for Cancer Research.”

Coming to Anderson

Learmonth fell in love with Anderson University and its people when she visited during Welcome Week. She found Anderson’s faculty and staff to be welcoming. What’s more, if they offered to help her with anything, she found they backed up their words with actions.

Originally interested in entering healthcare as a physician’s assistant, Learmonth was reluctant to enter a career in research, but as she worked with Dr. Diana Ivankovic on cancer research, her eyes were opened to the possibilities.

“It’s interesting to see what I can do in this lab and what I’m working on can actually help in the healthcare field without actually having to be in it directly,” Learmonth said.

For more than a decade, students in the Anderson University Center for Cancer Research have advanced-level opportunities for research on the undergraduate level. They work with advanced equipment and skilled researchers to study cancer treatments and causes, all with a focus on community outreach and education. The center has been recognized and honored by South Carolina’s scientific community. Also, many students have received awards and grants for their research. Dr. Diana Ivankovic, herself a breast cancer survivor, has led cancer research for years at Anderson University.

The Ernest E. Just Symposium celebrates the life of the noted African-American biologist and is held annually in February.

Dr. Ivankovic feels blessed as she watches students at the Center for Cancer Research contribute to a growing body of knowledge about breast cancer.

“My dream has come true, since with every new finding we get a step closer to finding the cure for breast cancer,” Ivankovic said.

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