The number of active research scientists with expertise in all aspects of radiation has been steadily decreasing for more than two decades, despite the increasing use of ionizing radiation in medical and non medical settings. To fill this need we propose the SUMMER UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAM TO EDUCATE RADIATION SCIENTISTS (SUPERS). We hypothesize that by (1) providing undergraduate students with a supportive environment that teaches them the underpinnings of cancer biology, radiation biology, radiation physics, and cancer imaging (2) introducing them to state-of-the-art laboratory techniques and equipment, and (3) exposing them to the clinical (translational) relevance of radiation research, we will encourage a significant number of these students to pursue cancer and radiation research career trajectories. Particular emphasis will be placed in the recruitment of minorities and women into the program, two populations who are substantially underrepresented in upper professional ranks of radiation research departments. There are 2 specific aims to our program:
In Aim 1, we will provide a training program to expose talented undergraduate students to radiation biology, physics and cancer imaging. This program will combine both formal lecture-style education with hands-on research training in the laboratories of selected preceptors. The SUPERS program has the flexibility of allowing undergraduate students to participate for two consecutive summers.
In Aim 2, we will establish strategies to engage students who take part in this program to pursue a career in cancer and radiation-related research. We will (a) expose students to scientists and physicians who have made significant contributions to cancer research, emphasizing the connection to clinical impact of these contributions. (b) encourage students to present their work at a research retreat to increase their confidence in their ability to communicate with other scientists, (c) establish personal relationships with the students to encourage them to stay in touch with preceptors and program leaders after completing the SUPERS program, and (d) establish a program to track outcome (career trajectories) of the SUPERS students and evaluate the programs success. By completing the goals of this program, we anticipate that we will increase both the number and quality of scientists engaged in cancer and radiation-related research, which should have a substantial impact in areas from healthcare to bioterrorism.

Public Health Relevance

The overall goal of this proposal is to identify, recruit and train talented undergraduate students, in the basic and translational aspects of Radiation Biology, Physics and Cancer Imaging. These three related fields have seen a steady decline in scholarly participation during the last two decades. Particular emphasis will be placed in the recruitment of racial minorities and women into the program, whom are substantially underrepresented in the radiation sciences. By completing the stated goals of this program, we anticipate that we will increase both the number and quality of future scientists engaged in Radiation-related research which should have a substantial impact in improving diverse life arenas such as health care and bioterrorism.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Education Projects (R25)
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Subcommittee G - Education (NCI)
Program Officer
Lei, Ming
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University of Pennsylvania
Schools of Medicine
United States
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