Everyone has a cancer story. Whether they have battled cancer themselves, know someone who just received a diagnosis, or lost a loved one to the disease, no one escapes unscathed.
This summer, nine Baylor Honors Program students were given the opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with MD Anderson cancer researchers hoping to make those cancer stories fewer and further between.
“When I was looking for research opportunities, I was hopeful to find research projects that truly helped people, and the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center internship through the Honors Program was the perfect fit,” recent biochemistry graduate Shubhneet Warar said. “Having the chance to apply the knowledge I learned at Baylor and conduct research with physicians...was a phenomenal experience.”
The MD Anderson Cancer Center Summer Undergraduate Research Program became a reality for Baylor Honors Program students because of a partnership forged by Dr. Erika Abel, Clinical Professor of Biology, and the University Outreach Summer Programs faculty at MD Anderson.
“When I stepped into this role with the Honors Program, I knew we needed to find ways to give students within the Honors College opportunities to gain research experience before heading into medical or graduate school,” Abel said. “We have created partnerships with different departments at Baylor to help achieve this goal, but I wanted to give our students external opportunities as well, which is where the program at MD Anderson came into play. Internships like this help our most talented students envision careers as leaders at the forefront of medical discovery and at the highest levels of medical administration.”
Honors Program students were selected for the internship through a rigorous application process and then placed in a variety of research labs across the cancer center by the University Outreach Summer Program faculty at MD Anderson. Students’ research areas ranged from cancer treatment and prevention to healthcare disparities in specific Texas regions.
Many students said they were initially intimidated by the prestige of working at the top cancer hospital in the nation, but quickly discovered they were well equipped to dive into research at the elite institution.
“Before this internship, I had limited bench research experience because of the pandemic,” senior University Scholars major Noah Que said. “I was a little nervous at the beginning, but I quickly realized that my coursework at Baylor gave me a great foundation to build upon. I was able to contribute immediately because I knew the science well.”
In addition to gaining valuable research experience, students were able to attend twice weekly virtual career development seminars and build relationships with the physicians and graduate students in their lab.
“I am the first person in my family to pursue a career in medicine, so being able to attend seminars by MD Anderson faculty and gain insights into how they got to where they are now was incredibly beneficial for me,” senior University Scholars major Sarah Jones said. “The physicians and graduate students that I worked with every day also took the time to get to know me and really encouraged me to dream bigger and apply to more competitive medical schools.”
According to Warar, this internship has helped prepare her for whatever her future holds.
“This internship provided me with so much in such a short time,” Warar said. “The people at MD Anderson want to see students succeed and want to come alongside you and support you. In ten weeks, I have learned how to work with a research team, write an abstract, do a thorough literature review, and was given the opportunity to present my research. Because of my time at Baylor and MD Anderson’s investment in me, I could not be more equipped to tackle whatever I am called to do.”
To learn more about the Baylor University - MD Anderson Cancer Center Undergraduate Cancer Research Internship, please click here.
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ABOUT THE HONORS COLLEGE AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
The Honors College at Baylor University unites four innovative interdisciplinary programs – the Honors Program, University Scholars, Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and Great Texts – with a shared commitment to providing undergraduate students the opportunity to pursue questions that often fall between the cracks of the specialized disciplines by investigating the writings of scientists along with the writings of poets, historians and philosophers. For more information, visit baylor.edu/honorscollege.