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Student’s cancer research nets honors at New York symposium

Mar 15, 2023
3 min Read
Rhiannon McCracken at the BIG EAST Research Symposium

For the second consecutive year a Creighton student is a top-three award winner at the BIG EAST Undergraduate Research Poster Symposium held March 11 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The symposium, which held its inaugural event last year, is held in conjunction with the BIG EAST Men’s Basketball Tournament. It brings together top undergraduate research students from BIG EAST universities who present research posters to expert panels.

Creighton biochemistry senior Rhiannon McCracken, from Lincoln, Nebraska, took third place for her poster titled “Structural and Functional Analysis of Crassostrea gigas OAZ-PK RNA.”

The win marks Creighton’s third top-three finish in the two-year-old contest.

McCracken’s faculty mentor, Juliane Strauss-Soukup, PhD, associate vice provost for research and scholarship and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, says the poster concerned noncoding RNAs (ribonucleic acids) that play a key role in enabling cell growth and differentiation. They are a key target for the development of new anti-cancer drugs that might slow the growth of cancer cells, she says.

We can help develop the next generation of pharmaceuticals and cancer therapies.
— Rhiannon McCracken

McCracken, who entered Creighton planning a medical career, said she soon discovered a passion for scientific research and is now pursuing a PhD.

“I’m conducting research in the lab, studying an important noncoding RNA sequence,” she says. “With more knowledge about this sequence, we can help develop the next generation of pharmaceuticals and cancer therapies.”

“At Creighton, undergraduates like me have an opportunity to engage in important research with real-world impact.”

McCracken’s top-three finish at the BIG East symposium is the latest step along that path, adding to her experience as a chemistry tutor and a campus tour guide.

“I was very excited when I was awarded third place,” she says. “The symposium was one of the last times that I'll present a poster of my undergraduate research, so it was a great opportunity to showcase the time and work that I have done the last few years.”

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