The Citizen Science HD Big Data Academy, led by Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University (Winship) researchers Adam Marcus, PhD and Theresa W. Gillespie, PhD, MA, BSN, finished its second session on July 17th. The free summer academy, hosted by Emory University and now in its 3rd year, brings groups of middle school girls to campus, to learn about how data is generated and used in cancer research.
The girls range in age from 11 to 13 and come from schools throughout the metro Atlanta area and beyond. During each session, students use real data from cancer patients to discover the causes of cancer. A key skill the students learn is how to mine huge data sets, a fundamental part of many cancer research projects.
While usually a hands-on research experience where the group tours Emory laboratories, the program was adapted to a virtual experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students learned about p-values, KM plots, genes, mutations, genomics and disparities over Zoom and spent more time with their STEM mentors, Emory students, in small groups where they reviewed topics discussed during the morning lessons and worked on their presentations.
Adam Marcus, PhD, professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology and associate director of Basic Research and Shared Resources at Winship, says "Theresa and I are pleased to be a part of a program that's focused on increasing diversity in STEM and training the next generation of cancer researchers, biostatisticians, and genomics experts."
The Citizen Science HD Big Data Academy is funded by a National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) grant. The NIH SEPA program funds grants for innovative educational programs. Citizen Science HD is a curriculum created by Marcus and Gillespie to encourage underrepresented groups to pursue STEM careers.
"It has been a privilege to work with such a dedicated group of girls," says Gillespie, a professor in the Emory Department of Surgery and the Emory Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology. "We hope that through programs like the Big Data Academy we are building a more diverse STEM workforce for the future."