UChicago Medicine Launches Cancer Research Program for Underserved Students

UChicago students pursuing biomedical careers can also participate by serving as peer mentors.

By Emma Dyer and Madeleine Zhou

The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center (UCCCC) has received a $1.9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to fund a new cancer research training program aimed at underrepresented high school and college students.

Applications for the program, called Chicago Educators and Youth Enjoy Science (EYES) on Cancer, are open until January 21. The program will also include training for high school science educators who teach minorities or economically disadvantaged students.

Participants will spend eight weeks for two consecutive summers working with University of Chicago faculty on independent research projects. Based on the interests indicated in their applications, students will be paired with faculty in a number of fields, including clinical research, computational biology, and molecular mechanisms of cancer.

Students will also partake in ongoing academic research and career development training. At the end of the summer, the students will present their research to their peers. After the summer, students will still take part in monthly workshops, career fairs, and book clubs throughout the school year. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) high school teachers will receive similar training.

Both students and teachers accepted into the program will receive compensation as full-time workers.

The program, an expansion of the Continuing Umbrella of Research Experience program, is a collaboration between the University, CPS, and the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). Chicago EYES on Cancer introduces the inclusion of high school teachers and the new partnership with MSI, adding to the museum’s existing student science programs, Science Minors Club and Science Achievers.

Although affiliation with CPS is not required for applicants, the University has focused on recruiting from the South Side and Chicagoland area, according to a Chicago Tribune interview with Kathy Goss, the director for strategic partnerships at UCCCC.

“EYES gives an opportunity to students who otherwise wouldn’t have one to expose them to research and careers in science,” Goss told The Maroon. She is particularly excited about the opportunity for this year’s participants to attend the annual conference hosted by the American Association for Cancer Research, as the next one will be hosted next April in Chicago.

Chicago EYES on Cancer has been in the works for the past year; UCCCC applied for a grant in January and received funding in June. “Since then, we have been ramping up to get ready for this class of students,” Goss said.

UChicago college and graduate students pursuing biomedical careers can serve as peer mentors. Their responsibilities would include advising laboratory etiquette and offering career advice.