FSC Student Wins Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship To Fight Cancer

May 23, 2017

by Staff
A sophomore biochemistry and molecular biology student at Florida Southern College is among an elite group of students across the United States to receive an illustrious Goldwater Scholarship that he hopes will help him defeat a pernicious form of cancer that took his father’s life.

Chordoma is a cancer of the bones of the skull and spine. Because of its location and the nature of the cancer, it is difficult to treat. According to the Chordoma Foundation, the survival rate after 10 years is just 40 percent. There is no FDA-approved chemotherapy for chordoma, leaving surgery and radiation as the only treatment options, even though the amount of radiation needed to kill the tumor would be fatal to a patient.

Jake Griner, from Auburndale, is one of fewer than 250 students nationwide to be awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering in America.

The scholarship is awarded by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which was established by Congress to promote education and research by undergraduates in STEM fields. Griner, who competed against students from such major research universities as George Mason, the University of Florida, and Vanderbilt, was one of just 11 students from Florida to receive the honor and the first at FSC.

The scholarship provides a $7,500 annual stipend during Griner’s junior and senior years, which he intends to use to continue a research project begun during an internship last summer with the National Cancer Institute. At FSC, he has continued his research under the guidance of Dr. Shameka Shelby, assistant professor of chemistry.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to receive this award. I’m gratified that the Goldwater Foundation recognized the importance of my research at the National Cancer Institute and Florida Southern. The stipend will really help me carry my research forward,” Griner said.

He says the eventual goal of his research is develop an effective immunotherapy treatment for chordoma, a rare cancer of the skull and spine, which was the cause of his father’s death. Eventually, Griner would like to earn both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees and become a medical researcher.

“We are tremendously proud of Jake, our first Goldwater Scholar,” commented FSC President Anne Kerr. “He is an exceptional student and talented researcher, and the faculty and administration of Florida Southern will do all we can to help him achieve his noble goal.”