Scientist of the week

Josh Trotter

John Bettridge is a man of many talents. He is the president of fishing club and an esteemed member of the honor council. He plays on Lawrence’s rugby club team and competes with the swim team. A biology major, Bettridge has spent the last three summers at Lawrence developing techniques that use nanotechnology and viruses to fight pollutants in the Fox River as well as cancer cells.
But Bettridge was not always partial to the biological sciences. He arrived at Lawrence as a budding chemist until he started taking Beth de Stasio’s biology courses.
“That’s what really drove me into biology and biochemistry,” Bettridge said.
Since then, he has been studying as much biology as possible and has done research with professor David Hall nearly every summer.
In his sophomore and junior years, Bettridge worked with Hall on eliminating the PCB contamination problem in the Fox River. Specifically, they developed a method by which charged nanoparticles of nickel and iron can bind to PCB molecules and release a “radical oxygen.” The oxygen then breaks down the entire bounded structure into hydrocarbons that are inert and harmless in water.
Even with this new method of eliminating PCB, explained Hall, “Right now, with the amount of PCB that’s in [the Fox River], it’s going to be 100 to 150 years ’til it gets even a little bit better.”
Fighting pollution is not Bettridge’s only admirable scientific endeavor, however. This past summer, he worked again with Hall to take on another of the biggest health threats to humanity: cancer.
Specific types of cancer cells have an over-expressed folic acid receptor, and if one can engineer some molecule with folic acid attached to its exterior, then the molecule will be caught by the cancer cell.
Bettridge and Hall have been creating viruses with anti-cancer agents inside along with the folic acid technique to combat cancer cells. “But why viruses?” one might ask.
“Viruses are extremely good at getting into our cells, so if you can manipulate them – target their delivery, target what they transfect into cells – you can really use nature itself to combat cancer,” said Bettridge.
After three consecutive years of researching at Lawrence, Bettridge strongly recommends the research programs here “because you get to do a lot of interesting research and other fun stuff – and they’re paid.”
Looking towards the future, Bettridge is planning a career of more cancer research and eventually drug research. He hopes to go to medical school next year to further his knowledge of oncology research for the better portion of his professional career, and maybe even end up teaching.