Local High School Students Showcase Cancer Research

Students from the new Columbia Cancer and eCLOSE summer science program share their findings at Oct. 17 poster session

October 20, 2022

Students from University Heights High School in the Bronx showcased their research at a poster session held Oct. 17 at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. In June, the students participated in a week-long program where they gained experience studying the impact nutrition has on cancer development, using the fruit fly as a model. In-person classroom experiments were led through virtual lectures with an educational organization called eCLOSE Institute, together with Columbia faculty, graduate students, and staff. 

The initiative is part of a new outreach effort by the cancer center’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Office to expose young students to scientific research and promote and support their interest in the field. The program is co-sponsored by the HICCC's Community Outreach and Engagement Office and Cancer Research Training and Education Coordination Core.  Sandra Ryeom, PhD, who co-directs the DEI Office at the HICCC, says the program also provides the students with a network at Columbia that they may tap into in the future for internship, college guidance, and career opportunities.

One student, junior Ugochinyere Agbaeze, has already connected with a Columbia faculty member after completing the program. Ugochinyere, who loves math, science, and art and hopes to enroll in medical school, is planning to intern this year in the lab of Nikhil Sharma, PhD, assistant professor of molecular pharmacology and therapeutics and of systems biology.

“Even before this program, I always had an interest in becoming a pediatrician. I have four siblings and have been a math tutor and really enjoy working with kids,” says Ugochinyere. “However after doing this program, I could really see myself doing something in science research or related to cancer. The eCLOSE program just made my love and interest for science and medicine even deeper.”