Student interview: Isaiah Ramos
Summer Program in Cancer Research
The Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis (EMC) holds an NIH-sponsored Summer Program in Cancer Research (SPCR) to provide an authentic research experience for outstanding undergraduate students considering careers in biomedical research. This highly competitive program routinely receives over 100 applications for a limited number of positions. See detailed information about the program including dates, eligibility requirements, and a link for applying below.
Isaiah Ramos was a summer intern from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley who worked in the EMC laboratory of Dr. David Johnson. His remarks were recorded prior to the Department moving from the Science Park Campus in Smithville to the South Campus of MD Anderson in Houston.
About the Program
The Summer Program in Cancer Research (SPCR) is funded by the National Cancer Institute and hosted by the Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The research strengths of the department include: cancer genetics and epigenetics; chromatin structure and transcriptional regulation; DNA repair and genome integrity; programed cell death; immunology; and computational biology. Department laboratories are located on both the North and South campuses of MD Anderson. In both locations, students will have access to state-the-art resources and knowledgeable staff while performing cutting-edge cancer research.
For 10 weeks during the summer, students selected for the Summer Program in Cancer Research (SPCR) undertake hypothesis-driven, project-based investigations and attend a weekly lunch lecture series covering topics such as DNA structure and repair, epigenetics, stem cells, signal transduction and apoptosis, and emerging analytical techniques. Other student activities include social events designed to integrate summer interns into the research community, as well as tours of the MD Anderson Houston and Bastrop campuses. The program culminates in the SPCR Scientific Symposium, during which interns give a 10-minute presentation describing their research hypotheses, approaches and results. It is not uncommon for students to make significant research contributions and to earn co-authorship on scientific abstracts and manuscripts. SPCR students will receive a stipend of $6,000 for the 10-week program. The 2021 program dates are June 1, 2021 through August 6, 2021. The next application deadline is anticipated to be in early January 14, 2022.
- The laboratory environment at MD Anderson provides a broad range of challenging basic research projects. Students learn lab safety practices and techniques for gathering, analyzing and presenting scientific data.
- Emphasis is placed on the importance of basic principles that form the foundation for scientific investigation. Students learn a broad range of subjects related to the causes, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer.
- MD Anderson faculty mentors design projects that reflect the ongoing research efforts of the institution's laboratories. Students actively participate in the technical aspects of their projects and the interpretation of experimental data.
- At the conclusion of the program, participants present their summer research project at a Student Symposium.
- Must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident.
- Must have one of the following designations for the spring semester of the program year:
- Undergraduate freshman
- Undergraduate sophomore
- Undergraduate junior
- Must be enrolled in an undergraduate degree program at a degree-granting institution located within the United States, during the spring semester and fall semester of the application year.
- Must commit to the full 10-week program, and not be involved in other summer employment, programs or course work; must not plan to return to school prior to the end of the summer program; and must not plan to take any personal vacation or make other commitments during the summer program.
- Summer program awardees are strictly prohibited from partial, early or late program participation. Please consult with your school or P.I. to ensure that there is no conflict in schedule before you apply to this program.
The following applicants are NOT eligible:
- Undergraduate seniors (graduating in spring of the Program year).
- High school students.
- Students attending universities or colleges outside of the United States.
- Foreign nationals holding visas.
- Students who are taking a year off from school or who are in a gap year.
- The 2021 Summer Program in Cancer Research was held June 1 - August 12.
- MD Anderson's normal hours of operation are Monday thorugh Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Exact intern work schedules will be subject to their mentors' needs and expectations.
Students who have interest in a specific scientific research project should include this information in the Personal Statement area of the application. Although we make every attempt to match students with mentors in accordance with the students' declared interests, matches are based on faculty availability and matches may not be feasible in all circumstances.
If accepted by their home institution, students may make arrangements to obtain academic credit for participation in the SPCR. Letters confirming participation will be provided after successful completion of the program.
Students receive a stipend of $7,000 in support.* Students are expected to pay for housing from these funds. Paychecks are issued on the 5th and the 20th of each month, deducting the required federal tax.
*Support consists of a stipend of $6,000 for the 10-week training period ($600/week) and a $1,000 housing allowance.
Houston: The Houston campus is in the heart of the Medical Center with no on-site student housing. Housing options include extended-stay hotel, AirBnB, and private rentals. Houston and The Texas Medical Center have many public transportation options available.
Although staff can assist in finding housing, arranging and paying for housing and transportation are the responsibility of the applicant.
The following information will be required on the application:
- Personal information, including contact information and mailing address
- Transcripts from high school and undergraduate universities
- Personal Statement
- Two letters of reference with contact information (At least one reference should come from a science or math professor. The other may be from an advisor, counselor or health care advisor/mentor with whom you worked in a prior program during the past four years.)
Applications must be completed and submitted by the deadline. The anticipated deadline will be early January of 2022. Incomplete applications will be purged after the deadline has passed.
If the information found here did not provide the answers you need, please contact us at: SPCR@mdanderson.org
Past Summer Interns
Summer undergraduate Kathleen Klinzing harvesting cells in the Bedford lab.
Summer undergraduate intern Suhani Bhakta performing tissue culture work.
Summer undergraduate intern Michael Chen worked closely with his mentor Cari Sagum.
Summer intern Jennifer Nwosu (left) and her mentor Aimee Farria (right) with a Ponceau S stained western blot.
Summer undergraduate intern Gita Lakshminarayanan shows off her agarose gel image.
Sophia Alvarez presents her summer research findings at the SPCR Symposium.
Summer student Guy Bedford places samples in a refrigerated microcentrifuge.