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The Center for Biomedical Research aims to strengthen cancer research amongst elementary and undergraduates

August 03, 2020

Contact: Brittney Dabney, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Tuskegee University Center for Biomedical Research hosted two virtual research summer programs. The CRISP (Cancer Research Immersion Summer Program) and G.R.O.W. C.E.L.L.S. (Granting Research Opportunities in Wellness by Creating Exciting Learning Laboratories in Science) hosted two dozen middle and high school students, as well as undergraduate students to participate in a three and six-week long program focused on cancer research.

The G.R.O.W. C.E.L.L.S program included 12 middle and high school students over the course of three weeks, whose focus centered around cancer research.  The program has been operating since 2012, and has played a role in serving as a collaborative effort between Tuskegee University’s faculty and teachers from surrounding local schools. Participants from Lee, Macon and Montgomery counties had the opportunity to receive collegiate training in the science field and cancer research.

Dr. Mohamed O. Abdalla, Department of Chemistry professor and program co-coordinator says, “If we get our youth excited about cancer research as early as possible, we are building our next generations of oncology researchers, physicians, nurses, and medical workers.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was held exclusively online – allowing students to participate virtually in video lectures, scientific articles readings, life coaching, and virtual experimental activities.

“The most exciting feature of this year's program was the general theme which focused on viruses being the current situation in the world. In addition, students also became aware of other viruses which cause cancer,” said Abdalla. “At the closing of the program, middle school students virtually presented what they learned in a short video and high school students presented virtual oral presentations highlighting the different cancers caused by viruses,” he continued.

The six-week Cancer Research Immersion Summer Program (CRISP) program included 12 undergraduate students. The program is designed to recruit Tuskegee undergraduate students to conduct research under the mentorship of faculty in the U54 Partnership Institutions including; Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), and the O' Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The partnership focuses on cancer health disparities and discovering new ways to reduce the cancer burden amongst the African American population.

“This program is an integral part of our training for our biology undergraduate students who aspire to go to medical, pharmacy and healthcare related professional schools,” noted Abdalla.

During the virtual CRISP program students completed video lectures, scientific articles readings related to various areas of cancer research including molecular, cell, developmental biology and genetics of cancer research. In addition, the program included a full week of virtual experiments highlighting the basic research techniques related to cancer research including; cells culture and polymerase chain reaction. 

Abdalla says he contributes the success of both programs as a true manifestation of teamwork between Tuskegee University faculty and administrators including Dr. Clayton Yates, principal investigator of the program and director of the Center for Cancer Research, Dr. Richard Whittington, associate professor and director of undergraduate research in the Department of Biology, Chiquita Lee, program manager, Lecarde Webb, planning and evaluation manager and Macon County teacher, Belinda Hart.

Both G.R.O.W. C.E.L.L.S. and the CRISP programs are sponsored by Morehouse School of Medicine/Tuskegee University/UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Partnership.