Undergrads Explore Cancer Research Careers at UAMS Workshop

INBRE workshop organizer Tom Kelly, Ph.D., gives instructions about the day's activities.

INBRE workshop organizer Tom Kelly, Ph.D., gives instructions about the day’s activities.

| As Hendrix College junior John Pablo-Kaiser considers his career options, cancer research is high on the list.

“We’ve made leaps and bounds in what we know about cancer, but there is so much left to learn. I really think of it like a new frontier,” he said.

A biochemistry for pre-med major, Pablo-Kaiser recently took advantage of the opportunity to explore the field of cancer research during a daylong workshop at UAMS sponsored by Arkansas INBRE (IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence).

Participants engage in a small-group discussion with thyroid cancer researcher Aime Franco, Ph.D.

Participants engage in a small-group discussion with thyroid cancer researcher Aime Franco, Ph.D.

The Arkansas INBRE program supports research in public and private four-year colleges across Arkansas by building research capacity and raising awareness about career opportunities in biomedical research. It is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Institutional Development Award (IDeA), which was established to broaden the geographic distribution of NIH funding for biomedical and behavioral research.

Lawrence Cornett, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for research at UAMS, serves as principal investigator and director of Arkansas INBRE.

Conducted May 22 in the UAMS Library, the Bench to Bedside Cancer Research Workshop welcomed 15 Arkansas undergraduates interested in pursuing a career in medicine and/or biomedical research. The students, who ranged from incoming sophomores to recent graduates, represented eight colleges and universities in Arkansas and two out of state.

Catherine Peppers, a Conway resident and biology major at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, chose to participate because of her interest in the medical field.

Antino Allen, Ph.D., discusses his radiation therapy research with workshop participants.

Antino Allen, Ph.D., discusses his radiation therapy research with workshop participants.

“My mom told me about the workshop and recommended it to me. I thought it would be a good way to learn more about the field,” said Peppers, who plans to attend medical school after graduation.

The first Arkansas INBRE-sponsored workshop, held in 2018, focused on opioid addiction and drew positive reviews from participants.

“The students who attended our first workshop thought it was a valuable experience. We decided to offer the workshop again with a focus on cancer research, giving students the chance to find out about different career paths available to them in the field,” said Cornett.

About 12 UAMS scientists engaged in clinical or basic cancer research took part in the interactive workshop by presenting case studies and participating in a panel discussion and round table conversations.

“This is your chance to interact with some of UAMS’ leading scientists and learn what it takes to become a cancer researcher,” workshop organizer Tom Kelly, Ph.D., told the students. Kelly is an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Pathology.

Topics of discussion included everything from the long-term effects of radiation and chemotherapy on the brain to the ways in which the body’s immune system can be used to fight melanoma and other cancers.

Students also had the opportunity to eat lunch with graduate students and learn about programs offered by the UAMS Graduate School.