Spotlight On: Michael Law
Galloway, N.J. - As Stockton celebrates its 50th anniversary, it has achieved another significant milestone. Michael Law ’00, assistant professor of Biology, was recently awarded a National Institutes of Health grant, the second one in Stockton’s history.
One outcome from the grant of $375,629 is an opportunity for Stockton’s undergraduate students to conduct research in a real-life laboratory setting while also being paid for their experience. This training grant falls under the AREA (Academic Research Enhancement Award) Program, which is awarded primarily to undergraduate institutes where the research not only makes contributions and new findings to science, but also allows undergrads the opportunity to prepare for their future in a scientific setting.
On a crisp fall day, while sipping coffee on a bench in the Academic Quad, Law reflected on the personal impact of receiving this grant, “It’s kind of career-altering. It’s a lot of money, and you know, I went to school here, so having those types of research opportunities changed my life. It’s great to have the chance to make that kind of impact for current students.”
It’s kind of career-altering. It’s a lot of money, and you know, I went to school here, so having those types of research opportunities changed my life. It’s great to have the chance to make that kind of impact for current students.
It is no easy feat to receive a grant, either. The majority of submitted grants do not get funded, and the ones that do have gone through an arduous review process before they even make it to the final stages of approval.
Law joined Stockton as a faculty member in Fall 2017 but had been working on this proposal long before - so to see it come to fruition at his alma mater really is like “coming full circle.”
What’s next, and why?
So, what will Law and his students be working on with this grant? Examining the process of differentiation in budding yeast. And this research tells a story like most research does.
“Mistakes in our cell growth can lead to cancer development or developmental defects. We start as one cell, and all the cells in our body develop into different tissues. All the DNA in each cell is identical, but each cell looks different. And this ties into epigenetics,” Law said. “If we were to use an analogy, the DNA would be like if you and I bought the same computer, we’d have the same hard drive, but then when we start installing software, its going to run different programs. The epigenetics determines the ‘software’ that’s run on each computer. So we’re studying basically how that impacts the decisions cells make. So instead of using human cells which can be pretty complicated, we use yeast.”
When asked why these experiences are so crucial to a student’s success, Law said, “If you want to make your application stand out for something you want to do after you graduate, every single student at Stockton takes course work. That doesn’t make you stand apart. It’s rare to have an opportunity to say you worked on your own research. It’s even more rare to be able to say you worked on an NIH-funded research project.”
Law has served as a mentor for over 20 different undergraduate students during his time at Stockton and continues to foster those relationships even after they graduate. Many of his students have gone on to doctoral programs or medical school.
“One of my students who worked on the Spaceflight project is a Ph.D. student in genetics at Texas A&M, and we will check in on Zoom every now and then,” Law said. “He’s asked me what graduate programs there would be best for him. It’s really good to have that.”
These types of relationships between students and faculty at Stockton are a testament to why Ospreys go on to succeed in wherever their flight path takes them.
Reported by Mandee McCullough
Photo by Adam Redding