Research opens doors for student marshal

Austin Fruin

Austin Fruin credits the opportunity to conduct research in part for his academic success.

Credit: Penn State

READING, Pa. -- Austin Fruin, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, will graduate on Dec. 15 as Penn State Berks student marshal.

Fruin traveled a winding path before finding his calling. He enrolled as a business major at another college and then realized that neither the major nor the college was the right fit for him. After spending a semester at a local community college, he heard a lot of good things about the science program at Penn State Berks and decided to enroll.

Initially majoring in biology, Fruin explained that he had more questions about science, so he changed his major to biochemistry and molecular Biology. He enjoyed the challenge of conducting research with faculty members and working as a teaching assistant in biology — spending an average of eight to ten hours per week on each.

Then in the spring of 2017, he received Penn State’s prestigious Erickson Discovery Grant, which allowed him to work conducting research over the summer. His project titled "The Role of Chmp1 in Polyamine Transport and Metabolism" studied the functions of polyamines — small molecules that are important for many cellular processes. Since elevated levels of polyamines have been associated with a number of cancers, understanding the metabolism and transport of these molecules may help in understanding cancer pathogenesis. He and his adviser, Justin DiAngelo, took a genetic approach where they altered genes they predicted would be important for polyamine function using the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, as their model.

"I was very fortunate to not only have interacted with Austin as a student in my classes, but also as an undergraduate researcher in my research laboratory and a teaching assistant in my Molecules and Cells Biology course,” states DiAngelo. “In addition to being an excellent student in the classroom, he's a creative researcher and a very dedicated teacher; he has made significant contributions to both the generation of new scientific knowledge and the education of many Penn State Berks Science majors."

Fruin also received a grant from the Penn State Science Division for this research. In the spring of 2017, he received the college’s Science Peer Tutoring Award, for his work as a biology peer tutor.

“There are a lot of opportunities at Penn State Berks, assisting with courses and getting involved in undergraduate research,” explains Fruin. “These extra-curricular activities solidify what you learn in the classroom.”

When asked about his future plans after graduation, Fruin states he is currently interviewing for dental school.