Newly Created Training Program Aims to Spark Undergraduate Interest in Cancer Research

Cancer Summer Undergraduate Research Program graphic

The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (Case CCC) has been awarded a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to fund a newly created program that will engage undergraduate scholars in cancer research. The Cancer-focused Summer Undergraduate Research program (CanSUR) will be led by Mark Jackson, PhD, associate director for training and education for the Case CCC.

Portrait of Mark Jackson
Mark W. Jackson, PhD

As a comprehensive cancer center, one of the Case CCC’s main objectives is to educate the next generation of cancer researchers. The Center has recognized an opportunity to leverage our membership to facilitate a formal mentoring experience specifically focused on undergraduates.  “With CanSUR we have the opportunity to better connect with highly-motivated undergraduates and actively foster their excitement about a career in cancer research,” said Jackson who is also professor of pathology, Case Western Reserve University. Jackson said CanSUR plans to welcome 32 undergraduates per year for a 10-week experience, with a goal to increase undergraduate involvement to 160 over five years.

The program’s structure will be very hands-on, offering a unique and immersive experience for program participants, said Damian Junk, PhD, assistant director of cancer training and education for the Case CCC. CanSUR will begin with a week-long “cancer research bootcamp,” which will include lectures on cancer biology, seminars about cancer career paths, facility tours, laboratory safety training, and social events. Mentored research, scientific enrichment and career path programming will take place over the remaining 9 weeks.

Damian Junk
Damian Junk, PhD

As the program was developed, 82 Case CCC members, all of which are well-funded experts performing cutting-edge science, stepped forward to volunteer as Program Faculty. Joined by junior mentors who will facilitate day-to-day training, the selected scholars will delve into research in a Case CCC mentor’s lab, attend lab meetings, write research reports, and participate in the Center’s annual retreat. Their work will culminate in the program’s final week at the CanSUR Scholar’s Symposium where students will present their findings.

CanSUR is designed with thorough training for the scholars ranging from weekly working lunches with topics such as “preparing a 90-second elevator pitch” and “hot topics in cancer research” to weekly Case CCC Research in Progress Conferences where pre- and post-doctoral trainees will present their ongoing research to faculty and other trainees. A career options dinner will be led by experienced researchers, industry professionals and others who can provide insight on potential paths for participants. Also organized for scholars are one-on-one advising sessions that include the creation of individual development plans. Students will also be introduced to admissions directors and provided opportunities to shadow physician-scientists or take part in GRE/MCAT preparation.

Selected scholars will receive a $4000 stipend for the summer and additional housing and travel allowances are available for up to 12 participants.  Undergraduates from across the country are encouraged to apply. Applications for the program are expected to open early December 2018.

Contact Damian Junk at damian.junk@case.edu for more information.