A few years ago Luke Cuculis was uncertain if college was an option for him. Cuculis, now a senior, has come a long way.
"The costs involved with a college education seemed overwhelming and prohibitive to me," Cuculis said. "When I received notice of the substantial scholarships and grants I would be receiving from Gettysburg College, there was no question of whether or not I would be attending." Financial scholarships opened doors to research scholarship to him.
Working with Chemistry Prof. Shelli Frey, Cuculis is studying the interactions of nanoparticles and detergent solutions with model cell membranes, seeking to fill the current research gaps and quantify the results. Current applications of nanoparticles include everything from drug delivery devices to MRI contrast agents, making Cuculis' research both relevant and significant to real-world needs.
Cuculis' interest in nanoparticles lies in "their potential applications as drug delivery devices. Already it has been shown that some drugs, such as the anti-cancer peptide TNF (tumor necrosis factor) are much more effective when bound to nanoparticles. I see the use of nanoparticle-based drug delivery devices as one of the most important advances that will emerge in health care in the near future."
In February, Cuculis will be presenting his research at the 56th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting in San Diego, a multi-day conference where worldwide biophysical scientists gather to present their research. To prepare for the conference, Cuculis recently presented his research to the chemistry department during the chemistry seminar series. In addition, he has continued to work in the lab, providing further conclusions to the project.
Cuculis admits to "feeling extremely fortunate to be traveling to such an important conference as an undergraduate." Not only will he gain presentation and research experience, but he will also have the opportunity to listen to some of the most respected biophysicists in the world at this conference.
Deeply committed to his chemistry major, Cuculis attributes his "strong sense of community and motivation" to the department and its faculty. From extra help on assignments to graduate school advice, Cuculis appreciates his professors: "I can't emphasize enough how dedicated the chemistry faculty are. The chemistry faculty really goes above what is required and ensure everyone gets the best opportunities possible. The dedication of the faculty is what I value most in the department."
Outside of his major, Cuculis is the secretary of the Sceptical Chymists club, an organization that encourages students to extend their chemistry interests through outside research. Cuculis also spends time as a member of the Den staff at the climbing wall.
Gettysburg College awarded Cuculis financial aid supported by gifts to the Gettysburg Fund and endowed funds, such as the Woman's League Endowed Scholarship. In the fall, Cuculis expressed his thanks when the League was added to the Benefactor's Wall, an honor reserved for benefactors who have contributed $1million or more to the College. Luke's story is one of many examples of the great impact that generous financial gifts hold for students.
"It is the generosity of supporters of Gettysburg College, such as the Woman's League, that have afforded me the incredible opportunity to be a Gettysburg College student," he said.
Because of his positive research and classroom experiences, Gettysburg College has inspired Cuculis to pursue a doctoral degree in biophysical chemistry.
"I look forward to the day I too am able to support Gettysburg students, so that they may be afforded the opportunities I have been given."
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.