Cancer educates biology class

Students gain knowledge of deadly illness for practical applications

Astounding cancer statistics, an important subject and a personal experience with cancer led Dr. Melissa Antonio, assistant professor of biology to teach BIO412 Topics in Biology: Cancer Biology.

The elective course, intended for biology majors, covers the behavior of cancer at the cellular and molecular levels to educate those who hope to pursue a career in the medical profession as physicians, surgeons, dentists, radiologists or even clinical researchers.

“To have the opportunity to educate our society, future doctors and medical professions about the science behind this disease is crucial and has been a blessing to me, personally,” Antonio said. “I remember taking a cancer biology course as an undergraduate student myself, and soon after that my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. But praise God; she has been in remission for over 10 years now and never had radiation, chemotherapy or any therapy.”

Antonio said she knew at that point she wanted to be among the researchers dedicated to the fight against cancer.

“God revealed to me during my time as a graduate student that my purpose is to teach,” Antonio said.

She received her Ph.D degree from  the University of California, Riverside, and has been teaching at California Baptist University for five years. She has set for herself a goal to educate students about the debilitating and deadly disease.

The coursework includes case studies that give students a medical situation in which they have to work in a group to come up with a diagnosis. The material taught in the course has proven to be significant to students enrolled in it.

“Cancer; prevalent everywhere, it is one of the leading causes of death in First World countries,” said Bryan Curtis, senior biology major. “As someone who is planning on entering the medical field, it is important for me to have an understanding of how cancer works.”

A worldwide disease being taught and studied over the course of a 16-week semester may be a complicated task. However, Antonio said she has worked to create a curriculum that allows students to openly interact and exchange ideas.

Nikolas Villasenor, senior biochemistry and molecular biology double major, shared how Antonio has helped him develop throughout the course.

“Dr. Antonio is an amazing teacher who engages the class not only in her lesson plan, but personally, too,” Villasenor said. “She integrates Christian concepts into her curriculum and overall makes the class warm and inviting.”

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