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Research that Resonates: Amber Ignites Change

Pursuing her passion

Amber Shelton ’17 CLAS, ’18 MS came to Villanova University from New York City with a passion for science and a drive to help others. Amber knew that she would be able to engage in meaningful research with renowned professors as an undergraduate. She also knew that she’d have a life outside the lab–that Villanova would offer her diverse opportunities to follow her other passions and develop as a leader inside and outside the classroom.

From the very beginning of her Villanova career, Amber displayed a relentless focus on achieving her goals. She earned entry in to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ competitive BS/MS program, which allowed her to complete both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years.

On the path to discovery

Amber jumped right into research her first year thanks to Villanova’s emphasis on the teacher-scholar model, in which faculty welcome students to become their partners in research. 

“The opportunity to conduct important research as an undergraduate student has been eye-opening,” Amber says. “It has better prepared me for the research aspect of being an oncologist.”

Since her sophomore year, Amber has worked closely with Janice Knepper, PhD, professor of Biology and co-director of the Biochemistry program. Within Dr. Knepper’s lab, they study the Fetal Liver Zinc Finger protein-1 (Fliz-1) and its effects on breast cancer cells. The ultimate goal of Amber’s senior thesis and of the research is to try to answer key questions pertaining to Fliz-1 and its role in breast cancer. 

Personal attention from faculty and the opportunity to take an active role in research are hallmarks of a Villanova education. In fact, Amber earned a grant to present her work with Fliz-1 at the Annual Meeting for the American Association for Cancer Research in 2017.

"Communicating with other scientists and going to a meeting where you get to really hear what the scientific community is thinking—absolutely up-to-the-minute material—I think it was very inspiring to her," Dr. Knepper says.

Inspiration in the lab is part of the student experience. Dr. Knepper says their research is always grounded in a vision for the common good, and she’s consistently impressed by her students’ intellectual inquiry.

Amber Shelton

National Conference. Dr. Knepper describes Amber’s experience at the Annual Meeting for the American Association for Cancer Research.

Poised for what's next

Amber's focus continued throughout her time at Villanova, and now, she is pursuing a medical degree at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine. She double majored in Biology and French and spent a summer studying abroad in Lille, France. Amber’s studies in both the sciences and language have given her the hard and soft skills she’ll need as a professional in the field. While she learned empirical data and facts in her biology classes, her French courses helped her gain the skills she needs to better cater to patients.

“My French major has taught me the importance of being able to empathize and understand those who experience life in a different way than I do,” Amber says.

Outside of class, Amber has been a member of the Supernovas, Villanova’s oldest co-ed a cappella group, and a new student orientation program volunteer. She also served as vice president of the Black Cultural Society and is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. As a graduate student, Amber is the head resident assistant for St. Mary’s Hall.

“I chose Villanova because I had heard so much about its welcoming community in addition to the amazing academic opportunities that it had to offer,” Amber says. “But I wasn’t prepared for just how special of a place it would be for me.”