​This summer, Adam O'Neal will leave Sacramento State for Ithaca, New York, to begin a Ph.D. program in molecular and cell biology at Cornell University. For O'Neal, the road to becoming a stem cell scientist has followed a circuitous route through six campuses over 12 years. Yet, it was at Sacramento State that O'Neal was empowered to take a giant step forward in his academic career by helping advance applied stem cell research.

Alongside Biological Sciences Professors Thomas Peavy and Robert Crawford, O'Neal analyzed the utility of scaffolds seeded with stem cells for the healing of dermal lesions. Using mouse wound tissue that had been treated with human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) within a collagen scaffold, the researchers sought to determine whether low-oxygen treatment of MSCs would improve their wound-healing capabilities. After treatment, O'Neal investigated whether there was an increase in blood vessel development through immunohistochemical confocal microscopy analyses.

"Adam captured some of the most amazing fluorescent images of mouse blood vessel development within and around the edges of the collagen scaffold," says Dr. Peavy. "He even developed a sophisticated 3-D mapping analysis to detect how deep the cells were found within the scaffold."

The project eventually led to a co-authored paper for O'Neal that appeared in the journal, Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, in 2015.​

O'Neal credits his success to the culture of student support within the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "Here, I was able to find my academic identity, both as a student and as a research scientist, due to a community of professors who are willing to foster potential," says O'Neal.