Student interview: Isaiah Ramos
Undergraduate Research Focused on Cancer Genetics & Epigenetics
The Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis (EMC) along with partners in the Departments of Genetics and Pediatrics-Research, holds an National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute-sponsored Summer Program in Cancer Research (SPCR). This program 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.
Information about the program, including participating faculty, student eligibility requirements, and how to apply can be found below. The 2024 program will run from June 3 through August 9. Applications for the program will open November 27, 2023, and will close on January 17, 2024. Award notifications will be sent via SLATE on February 26, 2024. Accepted students must respond to their pre-offer letter in SLATE by March 4, 2024.
Isaiah Ramos was a summer intern from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley who worked in the EMC laboratory of David Johnson, Ph.D.. His remarks were recorded prior to the Department moving from Science Park to join their colleagues 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, along with partners from the Departments of Pediatrics-Research and Genetics. Our faculty's research strengths include: cancer genetics and epigenetics; cell growth control, genome maintenance and DNA repair; stem cells; immunology, cancer therapeutics, and computational and systems biology. Faculty 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 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 will present their research by 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. The 10-week program will run from June 3, 2024 through August 9, 2024.
- The laboratory environment at MD Anderson provides a broad range of challenging, basic science-based, research projects. Students learn both 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 public forum.
Eligibility and Requirements
- 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.
Dates & Work Schedule
- The 2024 Summer Program in Cancer Research will take place from June 3- August 9, 2024. Applications for the program will open November 27, 2023.
- MD Anderson's normal hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 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 $7,000 in support over the 10-week training period. Students are expected to pay for their expenses, including housing, using these funds. Paychecks are issued on the 5th and the 20th of each month, deducting the required federal tax.
Housing and Transportation
MD Anderson is located in Houston, in the heart of the Texas Medical Center. There is no on-site summer student housing. Housing options include extended-stay hotels, short term rentals like AirBnB, and other private and commercial rentals. Many public transportation options are available for those without vehicles.
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 instructor. 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.)
- Please note that incomplete applications will be purged after the application deadline has passed.
Applications for the Summer 2024 Program will open November 27, 2023. Please use this link to apply to tour Summer Program in Cancer Research, one of many MD Anderson summer programs under the "CATALYST" umbrella of programs. Applications are due January 17, 2024. Award notifications will be sent via SLATE on February 26, 2024. Accepted students must respond to their pre-offer letter in SLATE by March 4, 2024.
If this information did not provide the answers you need, please contact us at: SPCR@mdanderson.org
Apply to this Program
Applications for the 2024 program will open November 27, 2023 and will close January 5, 2024. This link for applying to the program, one of many under the CATALYST umbrella, will become active once applications open on November 27, and will automatically close on January 17. Award notifications will be sent via SLATE on February 26, 2024. Accepted students must respond to their pre-offer letter in SLATE by March 4, 2024.
Past Summer Interns
Summer intern Jennifer Nwosu (left) and her mentor Aimee Farria (right) with a Ponceau S stained western blot.
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 student Guy Bedford places samples in a refrigerated microcentrifuge.
Summer undergraduate intern Gita Lakshminarayanan shows off her agarose gel image.
Sophia Alvarez presents her summer research findings at the SPCR Symposium.