Pelotonia + Zamon Sawyer: Killing Cancer One Mile at a Time

Dean Manderscheid (left) with Team ASC.

This year, Dean Manderscheid (left) rode with Team ASC for Pelotonia 2014. Team ASC, the college’s peloton, rode for the fourth year, and our riders and “virtual riders” raised nearly $28,000 for cancer research.

Despite progress, the race to cure cancer is not over. Cancer touches nearly everyone in some way. In 2008, cyclists began riding in Pelotonia, a grassroots bike tour with one goal, to end cancer. Every dollar raised goes to Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute to fund cancer research at all levels — from faculty to graduate and undergraduate students.

Zamon Sawyer: Killing Cancer One Mile at a Time

Zamon Sawyer

This year’s more than 7,000 cyclists included several Arts and Sciences Pelotonia Undergraduate Research Fellowship winners. Their 22 research projects varied: using tools of decision theory and experimental economics to study improved doctor-patient communication; evaluating effects of chemotherapy on hearing ability; ethics of organ removal as a treatment means.

Our featured Fellowship rider, fourth-year biology student Zamon Sawyer’s project looks at what role paired box genes (PAX) play in the production of fatty acids, needed by cancer cells to grow. Finding ways to regulate fatty acid production could disrupt the rapid growth of cancer cells.

Sawyer, from Pickerington, Ohio, plans to attend dental school following graduation. “I became interested in dentistry at a young age because it is a field that combines the two things that I love, science and helping others.

“Unlike medicine, dentistry will allow me to see patients more frequently and make a difference in their lives. I want to start a dental practice with low treatment fees and educational workshops for my community’s underserved populations.”

Sawyer’s interest in research was driven by pure curiosity. She was hooked when she took an introductory research course for freshman, then went shopping for labs at the beginning of her junior year. She found a “very welcoming mentor in Molecular Genetics Professor Helen Chamberlin.”

“I was interested in this project because cancer has affected my family and friends. I believe that with modern technology, a cure can be found. My project reaffirms that a multidisciplinary approach is necessary to find a cure for cancer.

“I was inspired to ride in Pelotonia because I wanted to give back. I am grateful for Pelotonia’s supporting my research; riding and raising funds was the least I could do.

“I am really glad that I did. I experienced what it means to be a part of the Buckeye family/community — it was a wonderful way to start my senior year.

“We encouraged and checked on one another throughout the ride; whenever I felt like stopping I just looked left or right and saw someone three times my age sweating and working hard — that motivated me to keep pushing.”

This is only to be expected from Sawyer, who is very service-focused. A resident advisor in Baker Hall East, she is president of Ladies of Leadership, a student organization that provides upper-level undergraduate women opportunities to mentor first-year women of color to reach their academic and leadership aspirations.

Still, Sawyer knows how to have fun; she enjoys “dancing, exercising, laughing, shopping and trying or cooking new foods — and traveling!”

Team Buckeye gets ready to ride out.

Left: Team Buckeye gets ready to ride out. Right: Riders can choose from several different routes and distances — 25, 50, 75, 100, 155 and 180 miles. (right)