University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)

UPCI Academy Program - Magee Women's Cancer Research Center

The 4th annual University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) Academy was successfully completed after eight weeks (from June 18 to August 10, 2012) of experiential and didactic learning activities designed specifically for rising high school seniors.

The UPCI Scholars placed at the Magee Women's Cancer Research Center (WCRC) were exposed to various aspects of research in women's cancer, which has become a major strength at the MWRI with the recent creation of the WCRC. Research projects and presentation centered on critical research projects in breast and ovarian cancer, and state-of-the-art technologies and approaches for the studies, such as novel methods in mass spectrometry. The scholars were exposed to class-based didactic courses, to extensive research program in individual mentors' laboratories, and to a number of visits at clinical and core support components of the Magee Hospital, and MWRI. The cancer-focused coursework was designed to give the scholars a rigorous introduction to the complexity of cancer, but at the same time helped them to better understand the lab projects they were working on under the direction of the Faculty mentors.

Scholars' knowledge of the fields relating to cancer related to women's health increased significantly in depth throughout the summer as they participated in

  • a daily didactic component taught by medical students from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School centered on Robert Weinberg's The Biology of Cancer textbook,
  • a laboratory experience with a dedicated MWRI faculty mentor, and
  • cameo experiences which included tours, guest lectures, and clinical shadowing of doctors at Magee-Womens Hospital.
These components of the Magee Academy helped scholars to achieve the following goals:
  1. an increased understanding of the science behind cancer,
  2. an improved ability to understand, discuss, and present scientific research,
  3. an understanding of specific laboratory techniques, and
  4. a greater appreciation for the breadth of the field of oncology and how it translates to innovations and progress in women's health.

Cameo experiences included guided tours of MWRI facilities such as the Histology Core Facility and Mass Spectrometry platform, as well as visit to other University of Pittsburgh core facilities such the Genomics and Proteomics Core Facility. To provide further insight into the biomedical research community, the UPCI Academy Scholars were afforded a special presentation from the School of Medicine Office of Diversity Programs, as well as numerous informal career guidance lectures from clinicians and researchers in the Magee-Womens Hospital and Research Institute.

The scholars' understanding of women's health with a focus on cancer and oncology was evaluated based on pretests, post-tests, and interim exams. The scholars were also expected to discuss their lab's current research by participating in a weekly journal club in which they presented relevant scientific articles. The scholars not only improved significantly throughout the summer in their knowledge of the basic science behind cancer, but also improved in their ability to analyze, share and present their knowledge to others.

The Magee Womens Cancer Research Center leadership team was comprised of:

  • Steffi Oesterreich, PhD – Dr. Oesterreich is the Director of Education at the Womens Cancer Research Center. She took an active role in the education of the scholars in the biology of women's cancer. She was also involved in the organization of the social activities of the program, as well as a team-building exercise for the scholars, and attended the day long trip to the NCI.
  • Rebecca Watters, PhD – Postdoctoral Fellow. Developed curriculum for the Magee site, oversaw didactic sessions, served as assessment consultant and instructor. Worked with scholars on developing research projects and laboratory experiments.

2012 WCRC scholars

Scholar Mentor
Brianna Crawford Nathan Yates
Eli Gelernter Jane Wang
Alok Nimgaonkar Anda Vlad
Adam Robins Steffi Oesterreich
Chai Scott Adrian Lee
Amy Zhang Melanie Flint


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