Black STEM represent!
F*ck cancer in all of its various shapes and forms. It is harsh, unpredictable and heartbreaking rollercoaster ride of a disease. That’s why I am always here for anyone committed to destroying it.
Enter 22-year-old Chicagoan and scientist, Keven Stonewall.
From the city's Southside, Stonewall has one major goal: to end colon cancer and inspire youth in the process. According to Uproxx, at just the tender age of 19, Stonewall made a breakthrough discovery in immunotherapy under the leadership of Rush University professor, Dr. Carl Ruby.
“He should be heralded for helping to develop more effective colon cancer treatments,” said Ruby in a previous interview with DNA Info. “He has all the tools. He will go far.”
Through his research, Stonewall had positive results with a mitoxantrone-based vaccine, discovering that its effects are age-specific through in vivo trials with mice. Although it was known that mitoxantrone is effective against cancer, until Stonewall's work, it was not known that the drug works better in the young.
And that's the kind of knowledge that can and will save lives. The Colon Cancer Alliance says that colon cancer is the number three killer among cancer in the United States.
Stonewall’s love of science began in 5th grade after discovering a microscope. “I went to my teacher, and I kept asking like, ‘Okay, what do people do with microscopes? What can I do with a microscope?”’ he said. “Because the only time I’d seen a microscope was on TV and those scientists you know, Dexter’s Laboratory or all those different science TV shows.”
Equally important, he didn’t have a “Neil deGrasse Tyson” image that looked like him to look up to when he was a child. “From an aspect of race, necessarily you didn’t see a black scientist,” Stonewall mused. “You probably saw your old white man with a white lab coat.”
His interest in science became specific in high school when he witnessed his friend lose their uncle to colon cancer and experienced the destructive effects of grief.
After heavy Google research sessions, he started applying to internships in his junior year, hoping to land a spot at a research lab. “I was like, ‘If I’m going to at least try to eradicate cancer or even fight cancer, I need to be at the core, the ground zero, doing the dirty work,'” said Stonewall.
He eventually landed a spot at Chicago’s Rush University, under the tutelage of Dr. Ruby. Not beholden to the standard bureaucracy practices, Dr. Ruby encouraged freedom in his student’s work, and allowed Stonewall to conduct experimental research.
Cut to today, and we find a Stonewall who is finishing his final year at the University of Wisconsin and even widening his studies to include pediatric cancers such as neuroblastoma (cancer that grows in the nerve tissue) and osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer also found in children).
Stonewall knows very well how much representation matters, being a young black man in STEM. “We need more people who can represent in STEM fields because the more and more they see us in these different positions the more and more that’s going to be a reality for them,” he noted.