Student receives Goldwater scholarship for disease-fighting research

(Photo Courtesy of Adam Schieferecke)

After three years of developing his research, Adam Schieferecke, junior in microbiology, was rewarded for his work and dedication to a project that works toward a cure for cancer.

Schieferecke received the Barry M. Goldwater scholarship, an award given to promising young scientists, mathematicians and engineers who plan to pursue research careers, he said. The scholarship awardees receive $7,500 every year to pay for tuition or other college-related expenses.

Schieferecke said he began working in the lab of Stefan Rothenburg, assistant professor in biology, when he was a freshman, and from there he developed a project that he has continued to dedicate the rest of his college career to.

Schieferecke works with large animal viruses, called poxviruses, to see how well they can infect and kill cancerous cells while leaving normal body cells void of harm, he said.

“The main idea of my Goldwater scholarship application came from working with poxviruses, specifically those with oncolytic abilities, meaning they can selectively kill some cancers while leaving the rest of the body unharmed,” Schieferecke said. “The use of oncolytic viruses is an interesting concept and has potential to become a powerful weapon in cancer treatment.”

Schieferecke said his passion comes from his experience working in a lab and scientific research.

“I have always had an interest in science,” Schieferecke said. “My passion for this particular project began after I started working in the lab. I was hooked on pursuing a career in research when I realized the impacts it has on treating human diseases that right now we do not have cures for.”

Schieferecke entered the application process for the Goldwater scholarship and was selected as one of four people to represent K-State at the national level, he said. He was then chosen as one of the 252 students who were awarded the scholarship out of all the nominees from every public university in the country.

Schieferecke said K-State holds the title for most Goldwater scholarships awarded to students, as he is K-State’s 73rd winner.

“It was a huge honor to be able to compete against the nation’s brightest students in natural science, math and engineering and bring home another Goldwater scholarship for Kansas State,” Schieferecke said.

Schieferecke said he plans to continue the research that won him the scholarship in his future career.

“This summer I have a fellowship with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota,” Schieferecke said. “I will be researching how an oncolytic strain of measles virus interacts with the immune system. After I graduate from Kansas State, I’ll do a Ph.D. program in virology and continue to explore the use of viruses as beneficial agents in the treatment of some human cancers and genetic disorders. I then plan to pursue a career as a researcher and as a change agent in science policy.”

Schieferecke’s interest in science began at a young age, according to Schieferecke’s mother, Janet Schieferecke.

“Adam has always had a passion for science and learning,” Janet said. “By the age of three, we knew he would become a researcher. We are proud of his accomplishments and dedication to advancing science.”

Adam’s friend, Ryan Krajicek, senior in physical science, said he admires Adam’s dedication and work ethic.

“Adam will simply do whatever it takes to get things done no matter the circumstances,” Krajicek said. “His work ethic simply knows no bounds. Because of this, I’m not surprised at all (Adam) won the Goldwater. I wouldn’t know how he could be any more deserving.”