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March 22, 2011
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SRU senior earns prestigious Oxford doctoral program slot

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Christine Lundblad, a Slippery Rock University chemistry major from Pittsburgh, will cross the pond to the island of Stonehenge, Harry Potter and The Beatles, but not just to see the sights.  Lundblad has been accepted into the doctor of philosophy program in inorganic chemistry at the University of Oxford.
        “They have one the best, if not the best, chemistry departments in the world, and I knew I would receive the best education possible if I studied there,” Lundblad said. “I visited the school this past October and had an interview with the research adviser I would work for, which made me fall in love with the school and the town of Oxford.”
      According to the school’s Web site, Oxford is the oldest institution in the English-speaking world. While there is no clear date of founding, teaching existed at Oxford in some form in 1096 and developed rapidly from 1167, when King Henry II banned English students from attending The University of Paris.
          Oxford currently enrolls 11,723 undergraduates and 9,327 graduate students. Forty percent of the students are from outside England.
          Lundblad said she accepted Oxford’s offer contingent upon her obtaining scholarships and other funding opportunities to show she can pay for the four-year program.
         “I have always wanted to study abroad, but unfortunately, I was unable to arrange this due to time constraints,” she said. “I decided that now would be the best time in my life to travel far away from home.”
         Lundblad will train with cancer researchers and medical chemistry teams at Oxford, focusing on forensic research. The program has a one-year component leading to a master’s degree and a three-year component leading to a doctorate.
        Lundblad began her higher education majoring in physics at Grove City College but transferred to SRU in 2009. “I knew physics wasn’t the right route for me, but I loved chemistry too and decided to declare forensic chemistry when I transferred,” she said.
        Forensic chemistry, a branch of forensic science, encompasses multiple specializations, including DNA analysis, forensic anthropology, pathology and dentistry, she said. Much of the work involves the analysis of trace evidence found at crime scenes, ranging from fingerprints to blood and substance identification.
      “For instance, a forensic chemist could be given a sample of an unknown white powder that was found at a crime scene and would be expected to determine the identity and concentration of the substance,” she said.
       Lundblad said SRU’s chemistry program has prepared her well for Oxford. She is involved in her second year of research with Donald Zapien, SRU professor of chemistry. Lundblad has been researching the influence of chemicals and proteins on cancer cells, hoping to shed light on whether chemicals could be used to slow or prevent cancer cell growth.
        She has been doing experimental research studying the electrochemical properties of ferritin, the protein that sequesters excess iron from biology cells. Lundblad is writing a thesis and will participate in an undergraduate defense with a committee of four professors.
        “Christine was a student in eight lecture and laboratory courses with me and earned A’s in all of them.” Zapien said.  “She works carefully and efficiently, pays attention to detail and her performance on the exams reflects not only a strong command of the material but a strong motivation to strive for excellence. Whether it is conducting the experiments, writing a manuscript, or presenting her work at a national meeting, Christine has excelled in every aspect of research.”   

Lundblad said the equipment in the Advanced Technology and Science Hall is terrific.     “SRU’s chemistry department has really prepared me for what I will be doing in graduate school,” she said. “I visited Texas A&M University a couple weeks ago. I was also accepted into its Ph.D. program, and I immediately could tell that I was far more prepared for graduate school than the majority of other students participating in the visitation weekend. I truly believe the education I received at SRU, combined with the research experience I now have, will make me an ideal candidate for a Ph.D. in chemistry.”

Once she completes her Ph.D, she hopes to become a college professor or researcher.