High schoolers spend summer conducting cancer research at Notre Dame's Harper Cancer Research Institute

NOW: High schoolers spend summer conducting cancer research at Notre Dame’s Harper Cancer Research Institute

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- The Harper Cancer Research Institute at Notre Dame is changing the way we fight cancer through innovative research, and now local high schoolers are getting the chance to pave the way toward a brighter future.

The Research Cures Cancer Corps has been in the works for a few years, but this past summer, it finally became a reality.

"Getting an understanding of what that career development looks like, what college research looks like, what graduate research looks like. Getting access to that hidden curriculum early on," says Katharine White, Claire Boothe Luce Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame received 117 applications, and then narrowed the list down to just 10 students.

Students were nominated by their high school teachers from many high schools in the area.

Those students spent eight weeks of their summer doing their own research projects at the Harper Cancer Research Institute alongside professors, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

“Their activities in the lab really span the spectrum from really basic chemistry, analytical chemistry, data analysis, mathematical analysis, to working with cancer cells, and cancer organoids and cancer tissues, looking under the microscope, learning how to grow cancer cells, learning how to grow bacteria," says Sharon Stack, Professor and Director of Harper Cancer Research Institute at Notre Dame.

Students were also compensated a working wage for their time and research.

"It also allows students that might otherwise have to take a job in a restaurant or another typical high school summer job, to not lose that financial input while they’re working at the program here," Dr. Stack says.

They also got to have some fun outside of the lab, going ice skating and attending a South Bend Cubs game.

As the eight-week program drew to a close, the high schoolers presented their research to Notre Dame students and staff and other community members.

“We want to bring students in, give them a hands-on research experience, get them excited about science and hopefully encourage them to pursue a STEM career after they leave high school," Dr. Stack continues.

The Harper Cancer Research Institute hopes that this is just the beginning.

“Ultimately, we’d like to expand it to a nationwide program."

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