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Student Profiles Title
    Jeans M. Santana
  Jeans Santana

What ICRC means to me:

From the application, interview, and matching process to the end post-baccalaureate experience, the Introduction to Cancer Research Careers (ICRC) program has been a pleasure working with, but, above all, a door to a dream actualized. My two year placement at the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) were fantastic! From learning about what constitutes CAM and developing my own research project to taking courses, attending conferences, and spending time in the clinical center, this experience has set a strong foundation for what awaits me in medical school. The mentorship under Drs. Zia and Olaku has motivated me to work my hardest. This experience has truly been unmatched. I obtained all that I aimed to and more at the Nation's leading scientific research institute - and I thank ICRC for giving me the opportunity to do so. I've identified established mentors in the field of research and motivated friends for years to come. If you are looking for your all-in-one experience, ICRC is the best way to go. Get activated, apply, and be proactive and firm about your goals and watch them come true.

ICRC I love you and I thank you!

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    Mariela Martinez
  Mariela Martinez

Mariela Martinez is an Undergraduate student from the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez. Her interest in cancer research began at the summer REU 2009 in the University of California Berkeley where she functionally dissected the microRNA policistronic cluster, miR-17-92, found to have potent effects on B-cell lymphomas. This experience led her to present at the AACR Special Conference on Cancer Epigenetics. Following these experiences, Mariela became a participant of the SURP Program at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center under the direction of Dr. Marcel van den Brink where she developed strategies to enhance T cell reconstitution after severe immunodepletion. The presentation of this summer research led her to win the Best Poster Award in Microbiology at the ABRCMS Conference.

As a participant of the Introduction to Cancer Research Careers (ICRC) she had the opportunity to become an intern at Dr. Peter Aplan's Laboratory in the Genetics Branch of the National Cancer Institute. "This experience gave me the opportunity of applying molecular biology techniques to validate transgenic mice for the Hoxa9 gene (found to be up-regulated in various hematologic malignancies). The laboratory was comprised of a group of hard working professionals who constantly collaborated and as an ICRC intern, they made me feel like one as well."

Mariela feels this experience helped her gain the confidence to achieve her goals as a future scientist focused on understanding malignancies such as cancer. Currently Mariela applied skills acquired at the ICRC Program as President of the SACNAS UPRM Chapter that recently received the Chapter of the Year Award. In August, she will become a Graduate Student at the University of California Los Angeles and she is certain that her experience in ICRC will help her become a more prepared Graduate Student. "Working at the National Cancer Institute made me realize this is what I would like to dedicate my life to and I hope other students have this wonderful opportunity as well."

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    Demetrice (Dee) R. Jordan
  Demetrice (Dee) R. Jordan Demetrice (Dee) R. Jordan is a Graduate Student at Georgia State University, pursuing degrees in Medical Geography and Public Health. Additionally, Dee has obtained a Professional Certificate in Geographical Information Systems.

Demetrice is a member of Delta Epsilon Iota National Honor Society. She was recently awarded a summer fellowship through the National Cancer Institute's Introduction to Cancer Research Careers Training Program, in the Division of Epidemiology and Genetics, Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch and previously awarded a competitive fellowship to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's Cancer Prevention Research Training Program, where she had the opportunity to be mentored by and collaborate with many icons in the field of cancer prevention, epidemiology, and health disparities research.

As a recent graduate and fully-engaged in continuing her post-graduate education, Dee Jordan is blazing a trail in her chosen field - mapping environmental health disparities, cancer risks, and spatial epidemiology. Dee will graduate with her Masters in Medical Geography.

"The Introduction to Cancer Research Careers summer fellowship provided me with an exceptional research opportunity with a holistic approach. I was able to conduct an epidemiologic study alongside award-winning mentors and icons at the NCI, while networking with top-level officials like U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, attend conferences and career development seminars with world renowned lecturers, all with the Nation's Capital as the backdrop! Who could have asked for a better experience?"

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    Estela M. Gierbolini Norat
  Estela M. Gierbolini Norat My name is Estela M. Gierbolini Norat and I am originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico. I received my Bachelor of Science Degree in General Sciences and Biology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. While pursuing my undergraduate degree I decided to become involved in the field of scientific research. This gave me a better understanding of the science I learned from an exciting and different perspective. It was then, when I had the opportunity to engage in various research programs located both in Puerto Rico and the United States. These research experiences included working at molecular biology and genetics laboratories which focused mostly on basic science research.While attending a national research conference held for minority students I learned about the Introduction to Cancer Research Careers (ICRC) Program. As I began my Masters of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling I became interested in a more clinical approach to research and therefore decided to apply to the ICRC program.

The ICRC program from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) provided me the great opportunity to work at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. I had the privilege to work at Dr. Svetlana Pack's lab in the Chromosome Pathology Unit at the NIH Clinical Research Center. I worked in the state-of the-art laboratory learning cutting – edge methods in Cancer Molecular Diagnostics aiming to identify tumor -specific gene abnormalities that would provide an option for personalized targeted therapy to treat patients with cancer based on their tumor molecular profiling . I learned to apply Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH) technique for the analysis of metaphase chromosomes, formalin-fixed-paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumor tissue sections, learned to work on Fluorescence microscope with image acquisition and processing. In this clinical Laboratory (CAP accredited, CLIA-certified) I participated in the development and validation of novel diagnostic FISH tests for pediatric and lung cancer. Those new tests will go live soon to support many clinical trials at NCI, CCR.

I also had a very pleasant time enjoying my free time during the internship. The Washington, DC area has many activities to offer. From monuments and museums to nightlife, it is a close trip from any metro station. The metro system is simple to use and convenient allowing fast transportation through Virginia, Washington DC and Maryland. Public transportation buses are also available and well identified according to their destination. There were also many shops and restaurants close to the summer living arrangements. I highly recommend the Introduction to Cancer Research Program to students from different backgrounds who are dedicated, driven and interested in contributing to the scientific research field.

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    Aisha Kudura
  Aisha Kudura My name is Aisha Kudura. I graduated from New Mexico State University with a Masters in Public Health. I participated in the ICRC program as a summer intern in the Center for Cancer Training, Office of the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program on the Rockville campus. I learned about the ICRC program through a conference that I attended. Once I was accepted into the program, I was able to attend the winter visit in February and meet with several different investigators at NCI. The winter visit was a great opportunity for me to learn about current research at NCI as well as receive a tour of NIH and meet the other ICRC participants. Participating in the winter visit alone was great experience in itself and opened the doors for me to participate in an internship at NCI.

Since my background was primarily in public health and population sciences, my internship placement was a little different than most and focused more on public health research and program planning. As an intern, I was responsible for helping to coordinate the Summer Curriculum in Cancer Prevention—a summer training offered every year to health professionals from around the world. Assisting with the summer curriculum allowed me to meet many prestigious researchers from NIH and beyond. In addition, I also conducted research and literature reviews regarding cancer research training programs.

The ICRC program provided me with a fantastic summer experience that I will never forget. I would recommend this program to students who are interested in gaining hands-on research experience, exploring career options, and learning more about current research at NIH. Being an intern allowed me to network and receive mentorship from many people within NCI (both within and outside of my office). In addition to having a great professional experience, the program also presented a great opportunity for me to explore the D.C. area and all that it has to offer. To future interns, I would recommend taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. There are a variety of lectures, workshops, and other events offered through NIH that can be very helpful, and the D.C. area also has so much to offer in the way of culture, history, arts, and entertainment.

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    Charissa Kahue
  Photos My name is Charissa Kahue and I am currently a postbac in Dr. Ira Pastan's research lab at the National Cancer Institute. Originally from Honolulu, HI, I came to the NIH to pursue a postbac research experience at the premier government scientific research institution in the country. I graduated from Chaminade University of Honolulu with a bachelor's degree in biology and began my fellowship working for Dr. Pastan through the Introduction to Cancer Research Careers (ICRC) Program.

Prior to graduating, I was unsure of whether I wanted to apply to MD or MD/PhD programs. At the time, I had two summers of research experience under my belt, but did not feel they gave me an accurate conception of the lifestyle I would live if I decided to pursue an MD/PhD combined degree. Thus, I decided to seek out an experience between college and medical school that would give me more research experience and assist me with my decision.

I learned about the ICRC Program through one of its representatives who was recruiting applicants at an undergraduate research conference. After hearing about the program and all it had to offer, I knew that ICRC was exactly the kind of experience I was seeking. The guidance and support that the ICRC staff offers in matching with a good lab and transitioning into a fellowship is what sets this program apart from the rest at NIH and makes the overall experience very enjoyable.

During my time here, I have been studying the obesity-related protein ANKRD26. What my lab has found is that ANKRD26 is the ancestor of a gene known as POTE, which is overexpressed in different cancer types. When we generated mice partially lacking functional ANKRD26, we found that they became very obese and had similar metabolic problems as obese humans do. Beyond their outward phenotype, we initially knew little else about ANKRD26 and have since been studying its expression in various tissues, its protein binding partners, and its role in adipogenesis. It is an exciting project and I consider myself very privileged to be working with such a great research team on further elucidating ANKRD26.

Currently, I am in the process of applying to MD programs across the country. While I have enjoyed my research experience here, I have decided that I would be better suited for a career as a clinical physician rather than a physician scientist. Through my time in the lab, I have gained a wealth of knowledge and professional experience that I know will serve me well in the next phase of my life.

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    Lissa Y. Berroa Garcia
  Lissa Y. Berroa Garcia I am Lissa Y. Berroa Garcia. I'm originally from the Dominican Republic, but I also lived in Puerto Rico for five years and I now identify myself with both countries. I received my Bachelor's degree in General Sciences and Biology from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. I was selected to attend the Introduction to Cancer Research Careers' (ICRC) visit. As a Cancer Research Trainee (CRTA) I am currently contributing to translational research, with a focus on breast cancer under the supervision of Dr. Kerstin Heselmeyer-Haddad in the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Ried.

It was at a conference for minority students where I had the opportunity to find out about the ICRC program. I personally spoke with one of the staff members and immediately was interested in applying for the winter visit. The ICRC provided me with the opportunity of a lifetime. As a first generation undergraduate, research was a newly and captivating experience and I embraced it with enthusiasm and high expectations. I became extremely interested in cancer research and when I found out about this amazing opportunity offered by the ICRC program, I applied immediately.

Being part of the CRTA (Career Research Training Agreement) program has been a remarkable experience. My research background was basic research in molecular biology. When I interviewed at the cancer genomics department, the fact that I would be exposed to a variety of different and interesting techniques motivated me to make the decision to work there. At the NCI, every day is an opportunity to learn and explore. One of the aspects I like the most is the fact that my laboratory colleagues always give me feedback about my progress and on how to continue to improve, and my mentor appreciates my input and opinions when we discuss the projects.

I recommend the program for undergraduates that would like to have outstanding research training and mentoring. ICRC participants should be proactive, ask as many questions as they can and make sure they have a clear understanding of the lab's research goals before committing to it. This experience has strengthened my confidence and lab team work skills.

Last but not least, being in the Washington area is an incredible advantage. You have a variety of multicultural, history, music and arts events that will keep you busy during your free time. One of my favorite pastimes is going with friends to enjoy the many different foods and flavors around the Washington area.

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    Jenifer Fleming
  Jenifer Fleming My name is Jenifer Fleming. I was born and raised in southern New Mexico. I had the opportunity to participate in the Introduction to Cancer Research Careers (ICRC) and I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity. Having had previous lab experience, this has by far been the best. I am a senior at New Mexico State University (NMSU) and I am double majoring in biochemistry and biology. I grew up in a rural community where educational amenities were limited. I was fortunate enough to have a family who believed I felt the need to surpass those limitations and encouraged me to continue my education. My interest in science has always been a constant, from participating in elementary science fairs to joining science clubs in high school. My scientific endeavors were there, but it was not until I was presented with scientific research that I found my forte.

I found out about the ICRC program from a presentation given to a group of students at NMSU. I felt the opportunity and experience was appealing and I quickly decided to apply. When I was notified of my acceptance I was excited and a bit eager to get here. I like the idea that the application process involved an interview, as it provided the opportunity to meet those that I would work with, and ultimately spend my summer with. This experience did not only allow me to work in a lab and gain experience, but also the opportunity to meet new people. My fellow participants and the interviewers were engaging and sincere in their desire to help educate us. I enjoyed all the interviews, and found a mentor and research lab with which I felt compatible and welcomed. I loved the lab that I picked and I enjoyed every day at work.

Spending the summer at the NCI-Frederick campus was definitely an experience. I enjoyed the small town atmosphere. Ft. Detrick, the military base in which NCI-Frederick is located, offers many things to the people working on base, including access to pools and trips to the national zoo.

I can proudly state that I have gained knowledge on lab techniques and drug metabolism from this experience and I feel privileged to have had this opportunity to gather such intellect. I worked with several people in the lab this summer and I have gained a wide variety of knowledge and techniques through my interactions with them. I welcomed the opportunity to work with everyone and learn all I possibly could. I also enjoyed having met new people and scientists as well as seeing new places.

To future ICRC interns I offer this advice, go with your gut instinct and pick a lab that really ‘fits' you. If you feel comfortable with the environment and people with whom you work, you will have an awesome experience and learn a great deal from the people around you. If you are unsure this is the place for you, come for the interviews and if you are as eager as I am to learn, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.

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    Ryan Henning
  Ryan Henning My name is Ryan Henning and I am originally from Sacramento, California. I am currently participating in a year-long internship at the National Cancer Institute. It was a big step for me to pick up and move across the country for a year but I knew the opportunities at the National Institutes of Health would be worth it. In college I participated in two years of undergraduate research and decided to pursue a career in science. After I heard about the ICRC program I immediately knew it would be a great opportunity for a post-baccalaureate internship. I came to the National Cancer Institute after graduation where I received an internship in the branch of Medical Oncology. While working at the NCI I will apply to graduate programs where I can pursue a Ph.D.

Many people have helped me get to where I am today but the biggest impact has come from my parents. They really supported me and pushed me throughout my college career. I ended up where I am today at NIH by working hard and talking to people. In my first two years of college I spent a lot of time studying and learning the material in my courses. This gave me a solid foundation to prepare me for the upper division courses in my major. After my sophomore year I began to participate in extracurricular activities and internships. By the time I graduated from college I had two years of research experience, I had presented my work at research conferences and I was able to co-author a publication in a scientific journal.

I was first encouraged to apply to the ICRC program by one of my professors who also worked in the internship and career center on my campus. I also received advice from a past student who had participated in the program and had many positive things to say about it. I decided to apply and sent off my application in November. By late December I had received confirmation that I was accepted into the program and would be visiting the NIH campus in February. During the visit I was amazed at all of the research that was being conducted at the NIH. I was also able to meet a scientist whose discoveries I had learned about in courses and textbooks. After working here for the summer I am still amazed at the caliber of research that is being conducted here.

The ICRC program has helped me tremendously. It is because of this program that I am able to intern at the National Cancer Institute. While here I have been able to improve my skills as a scientist. I have learned a variety of new laboratory techniques used to conduct experiments. My mentor has also given me the freedom to apply my knowledge and creativity to the ongoing projects in the lab. After this internship I will be well prepared to enter a graduate program and pursue a Ph.D. In addition to the training I have received here, I have also had a chance to meet other researchers and network with people that I may be able to work with again in the future. Science is a very collaborative field and it is helpful to form relationships and partnerships with other scientists. Participating in this program has also opened up doors to other programs as well. While I have been here I have since heard of other internships and graduate programs that I will apply for. The ICRC program has been a great step towards reaching my future goals.

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    Moises Terrazas
  Moises Terrazas My name is Moises Terrazas and I lived in Peru until I was fourteen. My parents decided to move to Utah to provide my brothers and me better opportunities, especially a higher education.

Learning the language and adapting to the culture were challenging but they were not a limitation that prevented me from reaching my goals of obtaining an education. Thanks to the guidance from my parents and positive mentors I graduated from the college of science with a bachelor of biological chemistry.

During my undergraduate work I helped establish and organize a national chapter of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) with the purpose to motivate students of color to pursue higher education especially in the sciences. Thanks to this national organization and the yearly science conference, I had the opportunity and pleasure to meet the team that is in charge of the Introduction to Cancer Research Careers (ICRC) program. After spending a couple of minutes talking to the ICRC team, I knew I wanted to be part of the program.

After applying and waiting for a couple of weeks I received the great news of being selected for the program and was invited to the February visit held at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda. The goal of the two day visit is to interview with some of the top researchers in the country that will become your mentor during the summer or year intern as a post-baccalaureate student. The other benefit of the February visit is that you meet your new family, which are students from different parts of the country that share that same passion for science and learning.

After interviewing with different investigators, I was selected to conduct research for the Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB) directed by Dr. Howard Fine. The NOB is dedicated to the treatment of adults and children with brain tumors. My mentor, Dr. Svetlana Kotliarova, taught me new and exciting laboratory techniques to study how brain tumor cells function, as well as tackling problems from different angles. I also studied the devastating effects of glioblastoma multiforme which is the most aggressive form of primary brain tumor.

I enjoyed my summer in Bethesda for several reasons, but most importantly because of the wonderful experience and mentoring I received. Working for the NOB has narrowed my option for the type of doctor I want to be, a neuro-oncologist. Thanks to the ICRC program I had the opportunity to meet great friends that will always be part of my life. I also learned more about the culture of our nation by visiting several museums which by the way are free! (Smithsonian metro stop). If you like different types of food from different cultures, this is the place to be.

Overall, the ICRC program has prepared me for the future because I learned that research is a very important component in medicine because you have the ability to understand more in depth how to treat a disease. This is why I would like to do a fellowship during my second year of medical school. I can't tell you how much I miss this program so I encourage everyone to apply.

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    Helen French
  Helen French My name is Helen French and I am from Arlington, Virginia. My interest in science was spurred by elective surgery I had during high school to remedy paralysis in my left arm. The innovative science used by my surgeons was astonishing, and since then I have been pursuing a career in the sciences. I graduated with a psychology B.A. from George Mason University, and am at the NIH thanks to the research experiences I had at GMU. While at GMU I worked with amazing teachers and researchers, most notably Hadley Bergstrom. Working with such a helpful, hardworking and passionate individual has been a great source of inspiration; and it was thanks to his encouragement that I found my way to the ICRC program.

After the winter visit to the NCI, I was unsure that my background suited the organization. My first impression of the NCI was that there were a lot of intramural microbiology labs looking for people with microbiology experience. However, once I began my summer fellowship I learned that there was far more to the NCI. I worked in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences which focuses on extramural research. I assisted numerous researchers on projects examining specific risk factors in association with illnesses including brain tumors, diabetes, gallbladder carcinoma, and nicotine dependence. My previous research as an undergraduate had been in neuroscience, assessing neuron structure following nicotine administration in rodents. Thus, population science and risk factors were totally novel to me, making this work both extremely challenging and rewarding. In sum, the ICRC program has been an amazing experience. ICRC has exposed me to a new scientific domain and to government protocol, allowed me to network with some of the brightest scientists in the world, and to enjoy the company of my fellow summer interns.

My advice to prospective ICRC interns is to keep a very open mind. After my undergraduate exposure to neuroscience I decided that I wanted to pursue a PhD in that field. I know that I will be a far better neuroscientist thanks to the perspective I've gained from my summer experience in another scientific domain. Additionally, one must keep in mind that the NIH is the world's foremost biomedical institution and has a vast array of different research opportunities. Thus summer placement in a laboratory or program that isn't a perfect match with your interests is not a dead end. For example, two weeks into my summer fellowship I got a position as an IRTA for the fall at the NIMH, and it couldn't be a better match with my interests and experience. This fortunate occurrence happened thanks in no small part to my being a summer fellow at the NCI. So be flexible, take a chance and become an ICRC fellow because nothing but good things will come of it!

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    Carmella Kahn
  Carmella Kahn My name is Carmella Kahn and I am a member of the Navajo Nation. I am from Mariano Lake, New Mexico, and I attend the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. I am a senior and will be majoring in microbiology. I did an internship with the NCI's Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD). My future plans are to do research in the field of epidemiology and to also work in the area of public health.

I got where I am today through the help of my family and school advisors. In particular, I gained an interest in science when I was a young girl and helped my grandmother collect herbs to dispense treatment to those in our community who were ill. By helping my grandmother, I was able to gain a better understanding of how it is possible to continue to use traditional teachings and blend them with current issues that affect our health. My interest in research was explored further at my university when I worked on a project that involved well water contaminated with uranium and its possible connection to cancer development.

My interest and decision to apply to the ICRC program came through my desire to find an internship that involved cancer research. I looked online for potential summer internships that involved research and was ecstatic to discover that a program such as ICRC existed. It held the promise for an exciting and unbelievable experience to work with the NIH/NCI as well as to meet other students who held the same interest that I did to work in the area of cancer research.

During our first visit to Bethesda, Maryland, in February, we had a chance to meet fellow interns and the coordinators of our program for the first time. The short visit also gave us a chance to also meet our potential mentors and to see if we were comfortable in working with the NCI. My first impression of the NCI was that it was extremely big and I definitely think that it would have been very difficult to navigate though it without the help of the ICRC program. I very much doubt that I would have applied there as a summer intern due to the problem of transitioning with no connections there, and having to pay for my own housing and travel fare.

After my summer internship ended, my impression about the NCI changed greatly. In the beginning I felt that the NCI was a system that only extraordinary people could enter. Now, however, I feel that the NCI is welcoming to all people with varying backgrounds. It was especially great to see that as an American Indian and a minority, I was encouraged to continue working with NCI and to someday return to gain more research experience.

I have greatly benefited from my summer experience with the ICRC program through the people I met, the places I had a chance to visit, and the summer research project I developed. I had the opportunity to interview and do a summer internship with the CRCHD. By working with the center I was able to make contacts that gave me invaluable advice about scholarship and career opportunities and I had a chance to design my own summer project. My project focused on creating educational materials that American Indian communities can use that are culturally competent so that they can understand their risks and options in dealing with health disparities. More than anything, I believe that my summer experience has given me the chance to step beyond a boundary that most people I know never have a chance of crossing, and that was all made possible through the ICRC program.

For future ICRC interns I would advise that they keep an open mind about which lab or center they would like to do an internship with. When I first came into the program I did not think that I would do an internship with an extramural center because I wanted to work with an intramural lab. New doors opened for me after I chose to work in an area I was unfamiliar with and now I would like to work in the area of public health and help make a difference in the area of health disparities.

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    Latarsha Reid
  Latarsha Reid I graduated from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia with a Bachelor of Science in biology. I interned the summer following graduation at the National Cancer Institute through the support of the Introduction to Cancer Research Careers Program. I will begin a Ph.D. program in cell biology and pathobiology at Columbia University.

As a native of Atlanta, my family instilled in me the value of a good education. While at Spelman I was first introduced to research when I began working at Morehouse School of Medicine as a Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) scholar. I worked in a biochemistry laboratory for four years. During my junior year, I also became a Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC/U*Star) fellow. Following my junior year, I participated in the Stanford University Summer Research Program (SSRP) where I worked in a DNA replication and repair lab.

I presented my research at various symposiums and scientific meetings during my undergraduate career. I met one of the ICRC program coordinators at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). I applied to the program and was selected to visit NCI where I interviewed with Dr. Barbara Vonderhaar. The interview went so well that I was offered a summer internship right on the spot. I have always wanted to work for the National Cancer Institute because my ultimate goal is to use research to devise ways that will ameliorate cancers that mainly affect women, such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer. My dedication to breast cancer research is partly due to personal experience. I found a lump my breast when I was twenty years old. The doctor did not find any evidence that the lump was malignant, but I still have to meet with a breast specialist every six months in order to monitor the lump.

I worked in the Mammary Biology and Tumorigenesis Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Vonderhaar. I had a two fold project. My first project was to examine if it is possible to extract non-degraded RNA from paraffin embedded tissue. I tested this notion by comparing the ratios of prolactin isoforms of the frozen and paraffin tissues via real time PCR. My second project is to compare the ratios of human prolactin isoforms in normal issue, lobular carcinoma tissue, and ductal carcinoma tissue also using real time PCR. I enjoyed my summer in Bethesda for several reasons, but most importantly because of the wonderful mentoring I received. I felt like everyone in my lab was willing to help me with any questions I had or to teach me a new technique I did not know. The ICRC was especially beneficial because the other students in the program will be my colleagues and peers in science one day. The networking at the NCI was very beneficial. I met people who will probably be my collaborators in the future.”

Overall, the ICRC program has prepared me for my graduate work at Columbia. This program has given me the opportunity to experience the nation’s number one research facility first hand. I am sure that I would like to come back to the NCI to complete my postdoctoral training. I encourage everyone to apply!”

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    Leonel Saldivar
  Leonel Saldivar


I was selected as a summer Introduction to Cancer Research Careers (ICRC) intern at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). I received my M.S. in Bioinformatics from the University of Texas at El Paso.

During the previous summer, I was also awarded a scholarship to participate in the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Summer Internship at the University of Southern California. I had the privilege to work under Michael S. Waterman, PhD., one of the fathers of Genomics. Dr. Waterman is to bioinformatics what the Beatles are to rock and roll, and he was my mentor during 10 weeks!

Work Experience

I have had many interesting jobs and work experiences. I taught mathematics at El Paso Community College for 10 years after completing my B.S. in mathematics. I have also owned and operated several businesses including a tutoring service and a sensory deprivation floatation center. The hardest job I ever tried was picking cotton at age 12. “… it looked like fun, plucking white, soft, fluffy, puffs for money. Boy was I mistaken!”

Research Interests

I am currently focusing on learning as much as he can about microarray gene expression analysis, and sharpening my computational programming skills. Past projects include gene expression analysis of data arising from prefrontal cortex tissue samples of male rats after the administration of lysergic acid diethylamide.

Dream Come True at National Cancer Institute

I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. My playgrounds were the fertile cotton fields of the Rio Grande Valley, next to the Mexican border. This is where I first dreamed of being a scientist. Now, thanks to the ICRC program, my dream has come to fruition. I’ve gotten a taste of what being a scientist is all about, and I’m hooked!

I interned at the Laboratory of Population Genetics, under the direction of Dr. Jeff Struewing. I was involved in the analysis of GeneChip gene expression data coming out of a study of cancer incidence among radiologic technologists. This study focused on cancers of the thyroid gland and female breasts as these tissues are thought to be particularly radiation sensitive. Microchips gave us computers that totally reshaped our world…I believe GeneChips will have an even bigger impact, and I’m on my way to being part of it.

While at the NCI, I also took advantage of many of the educational courses offered at the NIH, including Perl programming, Microarray Analysis, R and Bioconductor, etc… I was able to hone my scientific tools and got paid to do it ... a sweet deal indeed.

My lab team consisted of a great diversity of educational, ethnic, and geographical backgrounds, and everyone worked well together. It made time in the lab enjoyable.

Highly Recommended to Apply

Anyone interested in research, please apply. If you are accepted you will work at the mecca of medical research. ICRC will arrange for all your transportation and housing costs to be covered, plus your monthly stipend. But the greatest thing is that you will rub elbows with some of the greatest scientific minds of today and get a wonderful addition to your resume.

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    Sheila Thomas
  Sheila Thomas I spent this past summer serving as one of the Introduction to Cancer Research Careers (ICRC) interns at the National Cancer Institute.  I am a native of Washington, Georgia, and have a Bachelor's in Nursing Science from Georgia College in Milledgeville, and a Master's in Nursing Education from Clemson University in South Carolina.

Growing up, I enjoyed school, and many teachers served as role models.   My teachers were always an inspiration to me.   Yes, I was a teacher's pet and my teachers did sign my yearbook.  One of my high school classes paved the way for my career in nursing.  My interest for nursing science developed during high school in my Health Occupations class.

I first heard of the ICRC program through the Minority Training Program in Cancer Control Research listserv. After visiting NCI in the winter, I became even more interested in the program.

Everyone that interviewed me really seemed supportive and eager to have a summer student not just for the work they wanted to get done, but also to share the culture and learning environment of NCI and NIH.  I now know that this place is like no other institution and I am really happy that I decided to come.  There are lectures and meetings about cutting edge scientific work that you can attend.  Scientists, doctors, nurses, and educators from all over the world visit NIH.  Most of the events are free, which makes it even better for students.  Also, the opportunities to meet people that can help shape your career and future is wonderful.  I was amazed at the number of acquaintances I made on the shuttle to and from campus.

During the summer, I created handouts on how to manage the symptoms of surgical menopause for women who are at high genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer.  My work will be accessible to the public as it will be posted on the Genetics Branch website in the near future.  I am also in the beginning phase of outlining a review article on healthcare management options for women at high genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

My research in the area of genetics was particularly valuable to me as I had no special training prior to my research project.  My knowledge base has definitely enlarged since I have been here this summer.

Finally, I offer some words of advice to prospective ICRC interns.  Be sure to apply to the program even if your background and interests are not lab science.  Be willing to do something different than what you are familiar with.  Lastly, if you have time, be sure to visit some of the historic sites and cultural festivals that are going on almost constantly in the city.

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