Student interview: Isaiah Ramos
Summer Program in Cancer Research
The Science Park Summer Program in Cancer Research (SPCR) provides 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 recent summer intern from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He worked in the laboratory of Dr. David Johnson at Science Park as part of the Science Park SPCR. Science Park is the primary home for the MD Anderson Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis.
About the Program and Campus
The Virginia Harris Cockrell Cancer Research Center at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Science Park) is a basic science research campus of MD Anderson located on 717 forested, wildlife-filled acres located adjacent to Buescher State Park in Smithville, Texas. The campus includes more than 100,000 square feet of dedicated research space. Established in 1977, Science Park has become a leading cancer research facility where innovative research flourishes in a natural setting replete with state-of-the-art resources, engaged colleagues, knowledgeable staff, and top-notch research programs. Our research strengths include: Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Carcinogenesis, Genome Integrity: DNA Replication, Recombination and Repair, Cancer Genetics and Epigenetics, Cancer Stem Cells; Programmed Cell Death; Immunology; and Computational Biology.
For 10 weeks during the summer, students selected for the Science Park 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 Science Park 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 2020 program dates are June 8, 2020 through August 14, 2020.
- 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. (Local high school students may apply here)
- 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 2020 Summer Program in Cancer Research will take place June 8 - Aug. 14, 2020.
- MD Anderson's normal hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Exact work schedules are subject to the mentor’s 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. While we attempt to match students with mentors in accordance with declared interests, this is based on faculty availability and 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.
There is no student housing on the Science Park (Smithville) campus and because our campus is located in a rural area, housing and transportation options are limited. Staff can assist in coordinating housing. Housing options may consist of shared bedrooms/bathrooms. Students will also need to provide their own daily transportation to and from the campus.
In the application system:
- Please select ‘Renting an Apartment’ if you will need local housing assistance.
- Please select only “I have my own car” OR “Carpooling/Shared Ride” to indicate whether you will have your own vehicle or will need transportation assistance.
You may apply starting Nov. 1, 2019, through the Discover system linked in the next section. Applications will be accepted through Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. CST.
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 before the above deadline. 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
From Austin or Austin-Bergstrom International Airport:
Take Texas Highway 71 East towards Bastrop. Go through Bastrop toward Smithville. As you approach Smithville, you will pass La Cabaña Restaurant and a Chevron gas station on the right. Immediately past the Chevron station, you will turn left across Highway 71 West and onto KLBJ Road.
Take U.S. Interstate 10 West to Columbus, Texas and exit onto Texas Highway 71 West towards Austin. Pass La Grange and continue traveling west towards Smithville. Near Smithville, you will pass Spiradrill on the right and Smithville Hospital on the left. Look for a small sign marking KLBJ Road. There is only a very short exit ramp marked on the shoulder of the highway. If you pass a Chevron gas station and La Cabaña Restaurant on your left, you have gone too far.
Once on KLBJ Road:
Take the first left onto Ann Powell Road. At the end of Ann Powell Road, you will see a stop sign and a sign directing you toward Science Park, where you will turn left onto the winding Park Road 1-C (there is no sign marking Park Road 1-C). Science Park will be on your right with a large wooden sign marking the entrance. Upon arrival at the gate, use the intercom to ask the guard for additional directions.
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.