Alumnus Don Long Presents at Annual Research Symposium

Published: January 19, 2023 | Author: Abbie Cochrane | Read Time: 3 minutes

Donald Long speaking at College of Sciences Research SymposiumSouthern Utah University was delighted and honored to welcome back alumnus Donald Long as the keynote speaker at the annual Walter Maxwell Gibson College of Sciences Research Symposium in November of 2022. Long spoke about his current research, helping to find a treatment for a debilitating liver cancer, as well as his non-linear path that led him to SUU and now, a successful graduate career.

Long started his journey at SUU in 2012, majoring in biology and nutrition with a minor in chemistry. But before that, he was sleeping on the streets in Los Angeles. Long had been hospitalized after being stabbed in the back multiple times, inches from his spine. Long lost his job while recovering. After being released from the hospital with nowhere to go, Long turned to the streets and a shelter. Little did he know that he would meet someone who would help him redirect his life.

"Once I got back into a shelter I met a friend and she was like: 'Hey, I am going to go back to Utah, and you're more than welcome, you know,' " said Long. Taking the jump, Long quickly found himself in Cedar City with a job at a gym. This position made him realize how much he loved to help people. Following his hire, the New Jersey native considered applying for higher education. Despite the fact that his parents had dropped out of school very young, Long ultimately applied for SUU and got in.

His exemplary academics quickly helped him stand out and earn the attention of his professors, who described him as “a star student and researcher.” Dr. Ty Redd, Long’s chemistry professor, told the press that Long ranked 99th percentile in the nation on his organic chemistry exam.

Long graduated from SUU in May of 2018 and took the MCAT shortly after. Now a Cornell graduate student and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program recipient in the lab of Praveen Sethupathy, Long is just getting started.

Currently, Long is devoting his research time to the metabolism of a rare type of liver cancer known as fibrolamellar carcinoma. The disease is found in teens, adolescents, and adults under 40 with no previous history of liver disease and was discovered in 2014. It is caused by a chromosome breaking itself apart and then reassembling itself incorrectly, creating a fusion gene known as DNAJB1-PRKACA. Research is currently underway to figure out how the fusion gene creates a malignant tumor on the liver.

To students who aren’t sure if college is in their future, Long offers the following advice.

"A lot of times we live in a little bubble and all we see is in our little bubble.Trust me this world is humongous. There are so many things out there and I guarantee you you'll find several things that will interest you eventually. I'd just say keep learning, keep exploring your options, and read, read, read.”

Students and faculty within the College of Sciences presented in progress and completed research projects at the annual Research Symposium. The symposium is a great way for students (and faculty) to gain experience presenting their research before going on to present at conferences such as the Utah Conference of Undergraduate Research, Arts and Letters, Utah Academy of Sciences, and SUU’s Festival of Excellence and national and international conferences.

SUU’s Walter Maxwell Gibson College of Sciences is home to the biology, geosciences and physical science departments. Learn more about the College of Sciences annual research symposium.

Tags: College of Natural Sciences Biology Chemistry

Contact Information:

Contact the Office of Marketing Communication