Student interview: Isaiah Ramos
Summer Program in Cancer Research
The Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis 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 recent summer intern from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He worked in the laboratory of Dr. David Johnson the SPCR. Science Park is currently the primary home for the MD Anderson Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis, which also has faculty laboratories at 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 at the main campus of MD Anderson in Houston and at the Virginia Harris Cockrell Cancer Research Center, Science Park campus, in Smithville, Texas. 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 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 is scheduled for June 1 - August 6. Students will be updated on program status via email.
- Normally, MD Anderson's 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.
Smithville: There is no on-site student housing at the 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.
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 other private rentals. The Medical Center does have public transportation options available.
Although staff can assist in finding housing, arranging and paying for housing and transportation are the responsibility of the applicant.
Applications for the Summer 2020 program have closed. Applications for the Summer 2021 program will open soon.
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
Applications for the 2020 Summer Program have closed. Applications for the 2021 Summer Program will open soon.
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.