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UC Co-op Contributes to Better Medicine

Bio-medical engineering co-op student Steve Chrzanowski has been involved with research at UC’s Academic Health Center and now at the Texas Heart Institute – seeking to better drug delivery in the future.

Date: 5/19/2008
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Jay Yocis
The University of Cincinnati is the global birthplace of cooperative education. Co-op was founded at UC in 1906 when a handful of engineering students were sent into the city’s mills and workshops in an effort to tie their academic studies to real-world experience.

UC student Steve Chrzanowski talks about his cool co-op helping to research better drug delivery.

That same idea is at work today for UC’s almost 4,000 co-op students, including Steve Chrzanowski, 21, of Cleveland, a bio-medical engineering junior who is contributing to hoped-for drug-delivery breakthoughs as part of his cooperative education quarters.

Last summer, Steve worked in the university’s ultrasound lab. He explains, “What we worked on in the lab is what’s called localized drug delivery. Basically, what we’re working on is encapsulating a drug within liposomes.”

A good way to think of liposomes, according to Steve, is that they function like microscopic bubbles. As part of his research co-op at UC, he helped to place treatment drugs within these bubbles. The idea is that these bubbles would be delivered to a specific destination within the body. There, the bubbles would be burst, releasing the drug.

Explains Steve, “This could prove to be a better delivery method for drugs because it has the potential to reduce the side effects of drug delivery. For instance, cancer drugs often do their job and kill cancer cells. But they also kill what we consider good cells, too.”

He adds, “If the localized drug delivery we’re working on lives up to its promise, it should mean a big reduction in side effects.”

For a cancer patient, for example, that could mean treatment without the side effects of hair loss, weight loss, anemia and more.

Building on his first research co-op at UC last summer, Steve is now on co-op – conducting related research – at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, an institution which often collaborates with UC.

The best part of these research co-ops, he states, is the “knowledge and experience I gain from truly brilliant researchers. They’ve showed me how they operate, given me important roles and trusted my test results. They’ve taken me and my work seriously.  There’s nothing better than that sense of trust and commitment to the work.”

The co-ops have confirmed for him that he’d like to eventually pursue a medical research career as a physician. His co-op partners are, he says, “making that doctorhood happen.”

And the most demanding aspect of these research co-ops? “That would be, well, the challenge of it,” according to Steve. His colleagues often have at least a decade or more of research experience. That means Steve is stretched to keep up with them, all while currently living in a new city.

But there are always rewards. One came during UC’s “Cool Co-op” contest held earlier this year and sponsored by Professional Practice. Steve’s research co-op was selected as one of the “cool” 100 winners. His prize was a digital picture frame that he now fills with childhood pictures along with pictures of his college friends here at UC.

It does help, he says, to look at these familiar images as he takes on new challenges and opportunities, thanks to the university’s co-op program, ranked in the nation's Top Ten by U.S. News and World Report. “I look at the images. I know my friends are thinking of me and that some of them are on co-op, too, and tackling new challenges every day just like I am,” he states.