Applications are now open for high school, undergraduate students and high school science teachers
INDIANAPOLIS—More students than ever will be able to participate in meaningful cancer-focused research experiences through summer programs at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center, thanks to two new five-year grants from the National Cancer Institute.
The grants total more than $3.3 million and will allow the Cancer Center to expand its summer education programs, which aim to foster an interest in cancer research fields as early as middle school and develop a diverse workforce in cancer research.
The two new programs–Educational Pathways for Cancer Research (EPCR) and Summer Program for Academic Research in Cancer (SPARC)–build on 20 years of summer research programs at the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center. In total, six summer programs will provide mentored experiences for as many as 80 high school, undergraduate and medical students, as well as high school teachers in 2024. That’s an increase from 30 students in summer 2023. Applications are now open for all summer programs.
“The incidence of cancer is still increasing, and we need the next generation of both researchers and clinicians to take care of the population,” Harikrishna Nakshatri, PhD, the Marian J. Morrison Professor of Breast Cancer Research at IU School of Medicine and the associate director of education at the cancer center, said. “The best way to get students interested in the topic is to expose them to cancer research very early in their education journey so that they get excited about the possibilities in this career and how they can contribute to society.”
The Educational Pathways for Cancer Research (EPCR) program will provide Indiana high school teachers with integrated laboratory research experience and curriculum development opportunities to enhance their biology and cancer-related teaching skills and to create excitement for their students for science-related careers. Nakshatri is the lead cancer center faculty directing the five-year, $1.8 million grant.
The two-year program is offered in partnership with the Indiana University-Bloomington School of Education. Gayle Buck, PhD, professor and associate dean for research and development at the IU School of Education, is the co-lead on the grant. Additional programming will include workshops for Indiana middle school teachers throughout the year.
Additionally, the EPCR student program offers 10 weeks of mentored laboratory research experience especially for students who belong to a population underrepresented in medicine and cancer-related fields.
“The cancer center’s summer programs allow students to do hands-on research in IU labs alongside peer mentors as well as faculty mentors,” Nakshatri said. “They develop long-term relationships with faculty as they work in the lab together and develop an understanding of possible career trajectories and continued education. We are creating a pipeline for the next generation. Our summer experiences carry a lot of weight when our participants apply for PhD programs and professional schools at IU and beyond.”
The Summer Program for Academic Research in Cancer (SPARC) is a ten-week mentored, cancer-focused research experience. The program also provides professional development workshops to undergraduate and first-year medical students to prepare them for careers in science, medicine, and other cancer-related fields. Nakshatri also leads this five-year, $1.4 million grant.
Applications for all cancer center summer programs are now open. Interested students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible; interviews will be held on a rolling basis with deadlines in early 2024. Details about each of the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center summer programs are available at cancer.iu.edu/summer.
About the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center
The Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center is the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and one of only 56 in the nation. The prestigious comprehensive designation recognizes the center’s excellence in basic, clinical, and population research, its outstanding educational activities, and its effective community outreach program across the state. It is also one of only 33 members of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. As a member, the center’s physicians have a role in determining the recognized standard of clinical care for cancer patients. The center is the central hub for cancer research and education across Indiana University.