July 16, 2021

Winship Summer Scholars showcase research at virtual symposium

Photo of Winship Summer Scholars showcase research at virtual symposium

(Top left to bottom right): Medhini Anand, Emily Yu, Theodora Alese, Rustin Makhmalbaf, Vivian Nguyen, Bemnet Bekele, Hyunjin Kim, Rosi Tsarnakova, Luke Keosaksith, Srihitha Dasari and Aayush Gandhi.

A group of 11 high school seniors from six different states spent their summer completing research projects under the guidance of clinicians and investigators at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. The Summer Scholars Research Program (SSRP) culminated in a final symposium on July 9, where the students showcased what they learned. This was the second year the program was held fully online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"This year my fellow co-director, Nisha Joseph, MD, and I decided to adapt the virtual program to include elements from the usual in-person model to enhance the student experience. We assigned students to faculty mentors to guide them through a research project and immerse them in the day-to-day lab activities," says Cynthia Giver, PhD, co-director of the program and associate professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology.

"Getting an inside look at cancer research is a big part of the Summer Scholar Research Program's mission to expose high school students to life as a clinical investigator or basic scientist."

Even though students were not able to participate in a hands-on research experience, the opportunity to immerse themselves in their mentor’s research via one-on-one learning and attending lab group meetings empowered students to feel like part of their mentor's research team.

Other virtual features that were successfully piloted last year were again incorporated, such as the weekly journal clubs and virtual lecture series for all applicants.

"The weekly journal clubs created another touch point for us to connect with students and bolster their understanding of research while also developing presentation skills in preparation for the final symposium," says Joseph, an assistant professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology.

"This year we really wanted students to walk away with an in-depth understanding of life as a cancer researcher, and the variety of careers one can pursue within the world of oncology," says Giver.

The program ran for six weeks during June and July. Next year's program dates will be posted on the Summer Scholars Research Program webpage in early September.

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