The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) Academy, now in its 9th year, will expand its summer medical research program for high school students to include additional research experiences for academy alumni currently attending college.
The expansion is funded, in part, by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), which launched the Clinical Research Continuum: High School to College program to provide funds for eight institutions, including the UPCI Academy. The goal is to increase the diversity of the biomedical research workforce by providing hands-on experience for students, particularly from minority groups, who are underrepresented in medicine.
Over the course of its history, the UPCI Academy has become an award-winning science, technology, engineering and mathematics program that prepares college-bound teenagers and those just beginning college for successful careers in science and medicine.
“It is well known that there is a lack of diversity in the biomedical workforce,” said David Boone, Ph.D., executive director of the UPCI Academy. “This program allows us to provide hands-on experience for high-achieving students who may not otherwise have access. They must meet strict standards and demonstrate commitment and excitement to science to be selected.”
Scholars in the UPCI Academy engage in cutting-edge cancer research by working alongside scientists and cancer clinicians in laboratories at six sites across the University of Pittsburgh campus. Since 2009, the program has grown from five participants to an expected 60 in 2017. This year, for the first time, the program also will include four UPCI Academy alumni currently enrolled in college along with the high school juniors and seniors.
“We are empowering these students to move forward with careers in the biomedical field. UPCI Academy has helped students publish research papers in peer-reviewed journals, and several also have presented research findings at national symposia,” said Boone.
The students will work alongside the following UPCI researchers during their term at UPCI Academy at these different sites: Joseph Ayoob, Ph.D., The Drug Discovery, Systems and Computational Biology Site; Greg M. Delgoffe, Ph.D., and Tullia Bruno, Ph.D., Tumor Immunology Site; Deborah Galson, Ph.D., Cancer Biology Site; Gary Thomas, Ph.D., Andy Duncan, Ph.D., and Carolyn Anderson, Ph.D., The Cancer Environment, Bioengineering, Imaging and Genetics Site; David Boone, Ph.D., The Computer Science, Biology and Biomedical Informatics Site; Steffi Oesterreich, Ph.D., The Women's Cancer Research Center Site at Magee-Womens Research Institute.
In addition to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), the UPCI Academy, founded by Michael Lotze M.D., professor in the Pitt Department of Surgery, also receives funding from the National Cancer Institute CURE Program, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, and UPMC, as well as support from UPCI, Pitt’s Department of Biomedical Informatics, and donations from grateful parents and patients.