Academic Spotlight: Ethan Bauck

Ethan Bauck ’22 performing in Working

Since being recommended to the Cancer Immunology program at the end of his freshman year, senior Ethan Bauck has made prolific strides in his research of cancer and HPV, persisting through the challenges of a global pandemic. The end of Bauck’s sophomore year was cut short, removing him and his classmates from the Biotech lab. “[Going online] kind of put a dent in our growth as new cancer students because we didn’t have that lab experience,” says Bauck.

Despite the challenges of being away from the lab, Bauck returned to the Cancer program his junior year and along with his peers, put the pieces together from what he had missed during the lockdown. The 2020-2021 school year, however, also provided challenges for Cancer students: meeting in the lab every single day under the module system made experiments with longer incubation times difficult. This was a steep enough challenge for the Cancer Immunology department, but Bauck himself faced an even greater trial.

At the end of 2020, he underwent open heart surgery, taking him out of school during the third module, his second module of Cancer Immunology. Because of this, Bauck had a late start to his project upon his return. Bauck says his senior year is when he truly “hit the ground running” with his project.

By infecting cancer cells with extracted HPV genome, Bauck seeks to prove a correlation between the spread of cancer and HPV. On his interest in his chosen topic, Bauck says “I love microbiology and I also love cancer, and I wanted to see how I could marry those two.” HPV is one of the only viruses that is known to cause cancer, with certain strains proposing a higher probability of becoming cancerous.

Through his research, Bauck learned that the Gardasil HPV vaccine only protected against a few strains of HPV, and those unprotected strains had more incidence of causing cancer: “We’re looking at 5 or 6 different types of cancer caused by HPV.” Using this research as the impetus of his project, Bauck seeks to discover how HPV turns cells cancerous and ways to thwart the process.

One of two Cancer III students this year, Bauck makes a point of designing his project so that it can survive beyond his time at Reserve. “The cells can be frozen in liquid nitrogen, the bacteria and the viral DNA can be frozen for long periods of time… the work that I do now can help people later on,” says Ethan, opening the door for generations of Cancer students to come.

Anna Eisaman ’23

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