The Meyer Cancer Center (MCC) and Englander Institute for Precision Medicine (EIPM) recently wrapped up their annual 6-week summer program for approximately 50 high school juniors and seniors, and college students. Designed to improve education related to cancer and precision medicine, the hybrid summer program provides mentorship, and encourages the pursuit of STEM careers.
“I loved the whole program, and I really liked the didactics as they introduced us to topics that we did not have a lot of knowledge of,” said Anduena Toci (right), a student at the Manhattan International High School. “In addition, being able to go into the lab setting and building connections with Drs. Bustoros and Walaa was amazing. It was my first time going inside a real lab and looking at culture samples. I learned so much about different methods used in the lab to grow bacteria and the proliferation of the cells in the media.”
The summer program was designed to teach students about the translational research hub using precision medicine tools, such as genetics, genomic sequencing, and clinical data to improve patients’ healthcare and to conduct their own cancer-related project by interacting with MCC and EIPM members, including faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and staff.
The summer program began this year on June 28th, and students actively participated in a range of seminars related to cancer biology, precision medicine, cancer epidemiology, health disparities, academic research, computational biomedicine, journal clubs, professional development courses and regular lectures, and had the opportunity to interact with WCM faculty, staff, and other students.
The summer program exposed the students to the tools and techniques used by professionals in a leading academic medical setting.
“I have learned so much during this program,” said Sanjay Kaushik (left) a student at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North. “From my lab, I learned to code in R, generate plots, understand parts of cancer and immunology, and even got some hands-on work as well. From the didactics, I can’t even list everything because it was mind-blowing the amount of content that was covered.”
Beyond learning the basics about laboratory research and the cutting-edge tools used to advance science and speed new treatments to patients, the students spent time with and heard presentations from leading experts from both MCC and the EIPM.
“My favorite lecture by far was ‘Understanding Cancer Metastasis’ by Elena Piskounova, Ph.D., said Andrew Wenger, a student at Hunter College. “Her research was very specific, detailed, and very well presented. It gave me an excellent understanding about the types of questions one should ask when conducting research, and how we might stop the specific mechanisms responsible for the biological process of metastasis.”
The summer program also included a very interesting presentations by educators in the Museum of Modern Art’s School and Teacher Programs. “My favorite lectures were the MOMA sessions specifically the session we spent looking at the “Emergency Room” painting,” said Tomilola Adegoke from Bowdoin College. “I found it to be really interesting to look at the intersections between art and healthcare.”
Julia Hernandez from Hillcrest High School concurred. “My favorite lecture was the first MoMA session with Francis Estrada,” she said. “He seemed like a very genuine person, the lecture itself was very different to other lectures we had. This lecture was open minded, he showed different images of art and asked us to really pay attention to the details to figure out the message behind it and overall was a very fun and interesting lecture especially because I was never really able to see a connection with art and science, so it was very interesting.”
At the end of the summer program students had the chance to present their summer research projects to faculty members, mentors, and fellow students. Stacey Ajala (right) presented her research, “Evaluating the Racial and Gender Disparities in Knowledge and Awareness of HPV and the HPV Vaccine among US Youth.”
In addition to learning new skills and being exposed to advanced research concepts, a main goal of the summer program was working with a mentor and learning how to cultivate professional relationships. Dr. Ruth Gotian, Chief Learning Officer at Weill Cornell Medicine, presented “How a Mentor Can Help You Succeed,” which emphasized the importance of networking and finding mentors throughout their professional careers.
By attending professional development workshops focused on resume and personal statement building, networking, and demystifying the college and graduate school applications, students surely developed skills that will help them advance to the next professional level.
“Dr. Gotian was very engaging and informative in her presentation,” said Katie Hsu. “I think the timing of the presentation in relation to the program was perfect! It wasn’t too early into the program, and it wasn’t too late. I loved her ability to connect with our class and it was this lecture that brought community and closeness to all the interns.”
The summer program was mostly remote, but the end of the session allowed for the students to meet in person together for the first time and solidify connections and friendships.
The MCC and EIPM would like to thank everyone of our staff members who so generously volunteered their time and efforts to ensure the program was a success. We look forward to an even more successful event next year and will share the application information when it becomes available in early 2023.
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