If third-year Honors student Allie Lenyo could design her own class, it would involve going around the city and sampling food from local restaurants, ultimately compiling a list of winners for each category of food (such as "best chicken wings" or "best pancakes"). This course does not exist yet (we're looking at you, Food Sciences program!), but that has not stopped Lenyo from experiencing the local cuisine at places such as the North Market, one of her favorite Columbus destinations. Some of her other ideal Columbus activities include spending a day learning from the interactive science exhibits of COSI and walking among the Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo. Though she is from Huron, Ohio, a few hours north of OSU, it seems as though Columbus was destined to become a second home from the beginning, as she had hoped to be a Buckeye nearly all her life.
Lenyo has fun playing golf and guitar, but is just as passionate about giving others the chance to have fun-- particularly children suffering from life-limiting illnesses. She has participated in Buckeyethon, OSU's annual 24-hour dance marathon to raise money for children with cancer, since freshman year. For the past two years, she has served as team captain for the Biomedical Sciences team. On a similar note, she is on the executive board for the OSU chapter of an organization called a Kid Again. A Kid Again organizes free events and hospital visits for children and families affected by severe illnesses. Events could be anything from a get-together at a restaurant with other families to a trip to an amusement park or sports event. Lenyo also volunteers for the Wexner Medical Center, something she has done for three years now. Finally, she is a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta, a pre-health honorary.
Aside from being an OSU enthusiast growing up, part of what drew Lenyo to the university was the strong Biomedical Science program. There are only 23 students in her graduating class, which means students have gotten to know each other very well and are able to receive even more individualized attention from professors and mentors. The program's coursework prepares students to engage in further research and/or to pursue a medical career, two things that are essential for Lenyo her path toward becoming an oncologist/hematologist. Even after medical school, she hopes to incorporate cancer research in her career as a medical professional. She describes her research experience as full of both setbacks and very worthwhile breakthroughs.To avoid burnout and frustration, she recalls the advice of her program's director, Dr. Gunn. Putting his own spin on the (rather questionable) platitude that "good things come to those who wait," Dr. Gunn insists that "great things come to those who work hard for them."
Based on Lenyo's work ethic, great things will, indeed, continue to come. She has made sure to challenge herself by pursuing Honors coursework and has been particularly drawn toward classes with a service-learning component. Through these classes, she has the chance to apply what she learns in tangible ways such as working with organizations like the Red Cross. Though Honors classes make school more interesting all semester long, Lenyo's favorite time of year for H&S is the beginning of the autumn semester. "I love going to the Kuhnival and the Meet and Sweet at the beginning of each school year, and I think it's so much fun to go to events where everyone is so excited to be back after summer," she says. She also attends as many of the Dinner and Dialogues as possible, feeling she has learned valuable information from every professor and community member she has heard give a talk at Kuhn.
In addition to exposing her to a variety of fields, the Honors program has allowed her to pursue her own field in greater depth. For example, she received an H&S enrichment grant for the summer of 2016 that allowed her to continue living in Columbus and work in the Precision Cancer Medicine Laboratory of Dr. Sameek Roychowdhury. "Precision Cancer Medicine involves using genomics to study cancer not only by the basis of cancer type, but looking at what specific mutations a cancer patient's tumor has and using that information to treat the cancer," she explains. It is something she had specifically been hoping to work on. By covering rent and other living expenses, the grant made her involvement with the lab possible.
Lenyo spent the summer learning the basics of the research project and the lab skills she would need to conduct it, and it did not take her long to settle into her role. In fact, during last school year, she started an independent project focused on why and how acquired resistance to targeted therapies develops. Lenyo explains that this resistance can appear months or even years after a patient starts receiving the therapy, and eventually the patient may become resistant to all available options. "In order to help give patients the best possible outcomes, we need to understand more about why acquired resistance to targeted therapies occurs," she says. From there, she can use her findings to begin developing more resilient therapeutic techniques.
Lenyo's volunteer work with children and the focus of her coursework and research have reinforced her passion for making the lives of cancer patients easier in any way possible. This goal is in the back of her mind whether she is spending a few hours in the lab or spending 24 hours dancing in a color-themed outfit at the Union. Her next step will be applying for medical school; however, she adds that there is still one more thing she needs to accomplish before she graduates. " I'd like to take a picture with all of the Brutus statues around campus!"
By Christina Szuch, Honors & Scholars Media Team Member