July 14, 2023

High school students gain first-hand cancer research experience as Winship summer scholars

Twelve high school students recently completed a six-week immersion program at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University where they gained exposure to and experience in clinical, public health and basic science aspects of cancer research. The Winship Summer Scholars Research Program wrapped up on July 14 with a final symposium in which each student presented a research talk and scientific poster.

The Summer Scholars Research Program began in 2001. Winship members Cynthia Giver, PhD, and Nisha Joseph, MD, currently co-direct the program. Students selected for the program work with a Winship-affiliated research team and complete cancer-focused projects under the guidance and mentorship of a Winship principal investigator. This year’s Winship faculty mentors represented the Departments of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Radiation Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine; the Department of Behavioral, Social and Health Education Sciences at Rollins School of Public Health; and the Walter H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory and Georgia Tech.

"This year we were excited to have a great combination of six returning lab research mentors and six mentors who are new to our program," says Giver, associate professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. "In addition to traditional wet-lab experiences, our students also learned about research involving clinical data, cutting-edge image analysis techniques, community-based public health studies and development of new tools for tumor modeling. We are grateful to our mentors for providing this breadth of experiences for the students."

For Summer Scholar 2023 participant Olivia Hardman, her experience with the program has convinced her to go to medical school. Besides working on their research projects, students participate in a variety of activities to enhance their scientific knowledge, learn about career paths and gain additional exposure to the human side of cancer care. The 2023 curriculum included lab safety training; didactic lectures led by Winship faculty; panel discussions with cancer survivors and clinical fellows; field trips to the CDC, Emory Proton Therapy Center and the new Winship Cancer Institute at Emory Midtown; and presentation skill-building sessions in preparation for the final symposium.

"My favorite part of the program is the final symposium, which is an opportunity for the students to showcase what they have learned over the summer," says Joseph, assistant professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. "It is rewarding to see not only how much the students have learned about very complex topics, but also how truly interested and excited they are about the content and to share those findings with their peers and families."

Next year’s program dates and application details will be posted on the Summer Scholars Research Program web page in the fall. All eligible students interested in cancer research are encouraged to apply. Thanks to a generous gift from Lou Glenn, a long-time advocate for science education and cancer research, Winship now offers stipends to accepted students who complete the six-week program, making participation a viable option for interested students from a broader range of backgrounds than in previous years.

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