Could sea slugs one day help scientists discover a cure for cancer?
Ángel A. Valdés, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, hopes his research on the creatures will push the next generation of scientists closer to ridding the disease.
Valdés and Cal State Los Angeles Professor Patrick Krug traveled to Panama this summer to conduct a two-week student workshop at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Students from around the world participated in the workshop on taxonomy and systematics, which involved describing, identifying and classifying organisms. Participants attended lectures, held small group discussions, and conducted laboratory and field research. They were able to get a close-up view of the sea slugs to learn how they adapt to their habitat to live and thrive.
Scientists use sea slugs to study brain activity and to make some medications, Valdés said in a California State University news release.
“There is the potential to obtain more drugs and solve more health problems, and our students are working together to maximize the potential,” he said.
Valdés, whose research focuses on the evolution of sacoglossan sea slugs, won the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activities earlier this year. In 2014, his lab received a $527,000 grant from the National Science Foundation that he split with Krug to help train graduate and undergraduate students.