The 26 high school students and two program coordinators (far left and far right).
Shakira Uculmana, 17, presents on her research looking at the impact of the SF3B1 K700E mutation in breast cancer cells. Shakira was mentored by Bo Liu in the Sarat Chandarlapaty Lab. “The biggest challenge to complete this research — for me, personally — was understanding everything,” she says. “At my school, they don't offer AP biology until senior year. I'm very into genetics.” Shakira already has plans for beyond her senior year of high school. “I want to be a trauma surgeon, but I also want to do research. I've been really interested in psychiatric genetics, but now going into cancer — it's a whole new realm. But it's very similar at the same time.”
Rebecca Nadler, 15, presents her research into Hürthle cell carcinoma (HCC), an aggressive and rare type of thyroid cancer. Her work suggests that a specific gene fusion may drive HCC and could be a target for treatment in the future. Rebecca was mentored by Yiyu Dong in the Timothy Chan Lab. “He's taught me a lot about what it's like to take part in the research world,” she says. “It was so incredible to take patient data and transform it into research that could eventually go back to the patients and affect their treatment.”
Neelay Trivedi, 16, presents on the development of a computer program that interprets and curates biomedical research abstracts. “Right now, data curation is an extremely time-intensive process, and it's very inaccurate,” he says. “This is a system that can identify mutations within biomedical text and then predict whether those mutations are oncogenic or not.” Neelay conducted his research with his mentors, Hongxin Zhang and Selcuk Onur Sumer, as well as Jianjiong Gao in the Nikolaus Schultz Lab.
Angelina Shoemaker, 17, presents on her research examining the role of FAM46C mutations in the development of multiple myeloma. She was mentored by Sydney Lu in the Omar Abdel-Wahab Lab. “I thought it was really interesting to see how complex the whole research process is and all of the steps it took to get to the end result,” she says. “This work may someday have implications for multiple myeloma therapies — this study wasn’t looking at treatments, but the research is still essential.”
Crystal Chiu, 17, presents her research on the role of the HER3 gene in prostate cancer drug resistance. Crystal was mentored by Zeda Zhang in the Charles Sawyers Lab. “I liked just being in the lab and being the only high school student. It was intellectually stimulating and I had the time of my life,” she says. “This research experience ... I don't think I could've gotten it anywhere else.”
On a typical day, the lobby of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Research Center serves as a quiet crossroads for scientists, clinicians, and other researchers. But on August 25, nearly 30 teens gathered there to present their research efforts to friends, family, and MSK scientists. The students were selected out of a pool of more than 500 applicants to be part of the 2017 Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Summer Program.
As part of the program, each student completed an independent research project under the direct mentorship of a postdoctoral fellow, graduate student, or research technician.
Students were required to submit a resume, a school transcript, two letters of recommendation (at least one from a scientific advisor), and a signed letter committing to attending Monday through Friday for eight weeks to be admitted to the program.
Click through the slideshow above to learn about some of the students and their experiences.