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Research into cancer-fighting drugs receives more support with fellowship for Tusculum professor

GREENEVILLE – A fellowship provided by the Appalachian College Association will enable a Tusculum University professor to focus more attention on guiding undergraduate students who are conducting research into cancer.

Dr. Dennis Ashford
Dr. Dennis Ashford works in a lab in the Meen Center at Tusculum University; image submitted


In 2018, Dr. Dennis Ashford, an assistant professor of chemistry, helped launch a more formalized research program in his section of the Natural Sciences Department. The initiative has received four grants that have provided $64,250 to fund research by chemistry and biology students of anti-cancer drugs and renewable energy.

The students are looking into designing and making new drugs for chemotherapeutic applications and new materials for solar energy conversion. Now, the ACA has provided funds that will enable Tusculum to hire an adjunct professor to teach one of Dr. Ashford’s chemistry classes for the spring and fall semesters, enabling him to dedicate more time to the cancer research project. He said this will give him the opportunity to mentor his student researchers in greater detail as they advance their study on this lifesaving subject matter.




“We are excited about the potential for our research to impact the quality of cancer patients’ lives with the development of beneficial medications,” Dr. Ashford said. “Research is a detailed process, and I am pleased Tusculum has received this financial support so I can provide additional guidance to students and examine the subject in greater depth myself. I am grateful to the Appalachian College Association for recognizing the value of our approach to moving this project to the next level.”

Students researching anti-cancer prodrugs have successfully synthesized and characterized five new compounds that are being tested for their anti-cancer properties. He and undergraduate student researchers have begun analyzing compounds for their ability to absorb light and undergo photo-initiated reactions.



“Tusculum is blessed to have state-of-the-art facilities in the Meen Center to support the quality of research we have undertaken,” said Dr. Heather Henson-Ramsey, dean of the College of Science, Technology and Math. “But this project could not succeed without the commitment of Dr. Ashford and his student researchers to make a difference in such a major health issue. We look forward to further progress in their examination.”

Published January 4, 2021
















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