Nikki Wetton, a 28-year-old junior biology major from CSU Channel Islands, will spend the summer researching women cancer cell lines, thanks to a competitive grant from the CSU Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB).

Wetton is one of 16 students statewide to earn the CSUPERB Presidents’ Commission Scholar Award, which gives highly promising undergraduate students $8,000 to engage in full-time biotechnology-related laboratory-, field-, clinic- or community-based research.

“I am beyond excited,” Wetton said. “Ever since I started studying biology, I have had a fascination in research, cells and cancer, and this award allows me to truly enter the field and gain the experience that I need. This award means that I can live out a dream and put to use the ideas, skills and knowledge that I have acquired over the years.”

Wetton and her faculty mentor, associate professor of biology Nitika Parmar, are investigating how cervical, ovarian, breast and uterine cancer cell lines in women respond to exposure to anti-cancer agents using Phenotype MicroArray Panels and what protein pathways are impacted in them.

“We hope to better understand cancers affecting women and the differences between them,” Wetton said. “Hopefully, this research will make a contribution to science, which can be expanded on in the future.”

“Nikki is a highly motivated and dedicated scholar,” Dr. Parmar said. “I am delighted to have her in my lab and am looking forward to an exciting project which may lead to significant findings. As a research mentor I cannot stress enough how important undergraduate research is. I am thankful to CSUPERB for providing such wonderful opportunities to our students system-wide. I am happy that our hard work paid off.”

Wetton will submit a final report on her work to CSUPERB in the fall and may also be asked to present her research at the CSU Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach this summer. She will also present her work at several regional and national conferences in 2014.

In addition to her undergraduate research, Wetton is the student supervisor of the Student Union on campus, where she helps provide programming, services and support for CI students. After graduating from CI, she hopes to attend graduate school in biotechnology and pursue a career in biotechnology research.

The opportunity for students like Wetton to conduct hands-on undergraduate research alongside faculty is a distinguishing feature of a CI education. Nearly half of all CI students participate in some form of faculty-student research or creative endeavor, giving them valuable professional experience and a distinct competitive advantage in graduate schools and careers.

For more information on CSUPERB and the Presidents’ Scholar Program, click here or contact Dr. Parmar at

— Nancy Gill is the director of communications and marketing for CSU Channel Islands.