CPRIT Summer Undergraduate Experience

CPRIT Summer Undergraduate Experience - Summer Undergrad ICPRF

Undergraduate Research Experience

Summer 2020 UTHealth - Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT)

Innovation in Cancer Prevention Research Experience for Undergraduates

June 1 through August 7, 2020

Stipends for 10 weeks are $6,000, fully funded by the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas grant.


Do you like to think outside of the box? 

This quality cancer education and career development program offers placements with accomplished researchers at • McGovern Medical School (Houston) • UTHealth School of Biomedical Information (Houston) • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center-UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (Houston) • UTHealth School of Public Health (Austin, Brownsville, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio).

The program’s unique focus on helping trainees learn to ask important research questions and apply cutting-edge methods to stimulate innovative thinking to their projects.

Applications are now open!

TRAINEE applications: due by Jan 20, 2020 

MENTOR applications: due by Jan 17, 2020

Questions?  Email CPRITSummer@uth.tmc.edu 

About CPRIT - http://www.cprit.state.tx.us/ 

Undergraduate Trainee Comments

“I really appreciated not only doing the scientific research but also the training we received on innovation and public speaking. I also enjoyed going to the research poster/speech event before going to the mid-course dinner. The program was excellent and I would recommend it to others.”

“I loved this program. Great program for undergraduates to see into the world of research through great mentors.”

“All in all a wonderful experience, I learned a lot.”

“Overall, the experience in this program was excellent!” 

Select Trainee Publications

What do trainees do? 

Work with UTHealth faculty mentors and their research teams for 10 weeks to complete a research project in cancer prevention and incorporate Tools for Innovation.

Take the Massive Open Online Course on Innovative Thinking by Roberta B. Ness, M.D., M.P.H., who literally wrote the book(s) on innovation.

Creativity Crisis Book Cover

Click on the photo below to see Dr. Ness's TedXHouston talk, "Innovative thinking: Can you be taught?

Innovation Generation Tools Definitions

  1. Finding the right question: Good questions are ambitious and unbiased. Central problem statements are questions that have the greatest potential to generate surprising and useful answers have several characteristics—big and ambitious, unbiased by pre-existing beliefs, plausible, actionable, and useful. 
  2. Observation: Innovators must be acute and perceptive observers. Normal observation is anti-innovative.
  3. Analogy: One of the most commonly used methods to promote innovation. Analogies are associations in which we find commonalities between things including similarities and differences.
  4. Juggling induction and deduction: Inductive reasoning is the process of generalizing based on individual instances. Deductive reasoning starts from assumptions that are stated as axioms or givens, and these are used to reach a logic based conclusion. Whereas induction moves from observation to theory and deduction moves from theory to observation, innovation often combines the two.
  5. Changing point of view: Each of us sees differently based on our perspective. Innovators change their point of view to modify approaches to intervention. 
  6. Broadening perspective: Innovators benefit from broadening our perspective. It greatly expands the range of novelty. 
  7. Dissecting the problem: Dissecting the problem leads to convergence. Divergent thinking is the spawning of a wide array of ideas in response to a problem. Although generating many novel ideas drives novelty, the testing of very specific ideas and components of ideas allows us to converge on a single best solution so as to assure scientific progress. 
  8. Reversal: Reversal works either by flipping assumptions or by realizing the import of a serendipitous twist. This is a potent trigger for innovation. Innovators grasp the implications of finding the reverse of what is expected. 
  9. Recombination and rearrangement: These tools help us to mix up elements, expand, dissect, and reverse our problem statement or its solutions. Innovators can rearrange and recombine parts from other ideas, inventions, or disciplines to gain originality.
  10. Power of groups: Groups can be more intelligent, more efficient, and even more innovative than a single person. The power of numbers as well as the synergies among people with different types of expertise can accelerate discovery. 
  11. Frame shifting: Normal thinking involves using tried-and-true expectations to process new information and make inferences. Linguists call these expectations or assumptions cognitive frames. Frames are fundamentally constraining, so a shift in a frame can create a major innovation.

Ness, Roberta B. Innovation Generation: How to Produce Creative and Useful Scientific Ideas. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Project Profiles

Mentors have proposed cancer-related projects that provide a wide variety of experiences.  Be sure to click on the project name to read the description and see learning objectives and activities. Mentor’s CVs are posted on the websites of their schools.

UTHealth School of Public Health-Austin Campus

Courtney Byrd-Williams, PhD
Project: Preventing breast and ovarian cancer by supporting working mothers

Deanna Hoelscher, PhD, RD, LD, CNS
Project: Analyzing and disseminating results from the STREETS (Safe Travel Environment Evaluation in Texas Schools) study

Adriana Perez, PhD
Project: Programming Sankey graphs for tobacco research with sampling weights

UTHealth School of Public Health-Dallas Campus

Bijal Balasubramanian, PhD
Project: Care coordination for complex cancer survivors in an integrated safety-net system

Katelyn Jetelina, PhD
Project: Identifying competing demands that influence health outcomes among breast and cervical cancer survivors

Gregory Knell, PhD
Project: Evaluation of relations between physical activity and sleep in texas children

Kymberle Sterling, DrPH, MPH
Project: The C'RILLOS Project: claims of reduced-risk in little cigar and cigarillo advertisements

El Paso
UTHealth School of Public Health- El Paso Campus

Eric Jones, PhD
Project: Social mechanisms for outcomes in cancer survivorship

UTHealth School of Public Health-Houston Campus

Cici Bauer, PhD
Project: Spatial-temporal analysis for population health data

Paula Cuccaro, PhD
Project: Social marketing and mobile school-based vaccination clinics: an innovative approach to increase HPV vaccination

Kayo Fujimoto, PhD
Project: Projects young men’s affiliation project; HIV intervention models for criminal justice involved substance using black msm

Lara Savas, PhD
Project: Salud en Mis Manos: Developing and evaluating a social media campaign to engage rural and medically underserved Latinas in cancer prevention and control services

Irene Tami-Maury, DMD, MSc, DrPH
Project: The PRIDE Project

Sally Vernon, PhD
Project: Developing a strategic plan to make our successful multi-component HPV vaccination program irresistible to Texas pediatric clinics

UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics

Muhammad Amith, PhD
Project: Chew on this!

Yang Gong, MD, PhD
Project: Medication self-management and timely reporting for chemotherapy patients

Xiaoqian Jiang, PhD
Project: Machine learning based smart phone cancer risk assessment

Cui Tao, PhD
Project: Harnessing deep learning for understanding public perception of harm of vaping using social medial

Xiaobo Zhou, PhD
Project: Artificial intelligence improves liver cancer screenings

UTHealth McGovern Medical School

Melissa B. Aldrich, PhD
Project: Cancer-associated lymphedema

Ali Azhdarinia, PhD
Project: Moleculary targeted probes for cancer detection and therapy

Guangwei Du, PhD
Project: Lipid metabolism in cancer

Leng Han, PhD
Project: Dissecting novel genetic elements from human cancers

Arash Kamali, MD
Project: Non-invasive differentiation of the brain tumors using ADC value measurement on brain MRI

Melvin Klegerman, PhD
Project: Production of doxorubicin-loaded liposomes for targeted, controlled release treatment of breast cancer

Dung-Fang Lee, PhD
Project: Modeling Cancer with Pluripotent Stem Cells

Rachel Miller, PhD
Project: Role of p53 in kidney development: modeling renal anomalies of li-fraumeni patients

Rachael Sirianni, PhD
Project: Nanoparticle formulation for the treatment of pediatric brain tumors

Jennifer Walker, PhD
Project: Defining the host-bacterial factors that influence breast implant infections following post-mastectomy reconstruction due to cancer

UTHealth School of Dentistry

Walid Fakhouri, PhD
Project: Computational model for predicting deleterious non-coding DNA variations in cancer

Mary Farach-Carson, PhD
Project: Bioengineering a colon cancer avatar for new approaches to early detection and treatment

Daniel Harrington, PhD
Project: High-throughput, high-content drug screening on a microfluidics perfusion plate

UTHealth School of Nursing

Stacey Crane, PhD
Project: Development of a web-based interface to support self/parent symptom assessments for children with cancer

TIRR Memorial Hermann

Lex Frieden, MA, LLD
Project: Southwest Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Center

MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Margarida Albuquerque Almeida Santos
Project: DNA damage response and epigenetic deregulation in myeloid leukemias and b cell lymphomas

Laura Beretta, PhD
Project: Chemoprevention in hepatocellular carcinoma

Florian Muller, PhD
Project: Pantothenate kinases as novel precision oncology drug targets

Simona Shaitelman, MD, EdM
Project: Genomic predictors of radiation response in breast cancer

Shuxing Zhang, PhD
Project: Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Cancer Therapeutics Development

How to Apply

Applications are now available electronically.

Please complete the application here

Applications and supplemental materials (unofficial transcripts, resume, and one letter of recommendation) must be uploaded in the application system by 11:59 PM (CST) on January 20, 2020.

Semi-finalists will be notified in February 2020.

Trainee interviews for final selection will be conducted in March 2020.


If you have additional questions or would like more information about CPRIT Summer Undergraduate Research, please contact:

CPRIT Summer Mullen

Patricia Dolan Mullen, Dr.P.H., M.L.S.

Professor, Department of Health Promotion & Behavioral Sciences
7000 Fannin, Ste 2522
Houston, TX 77030
Phone 713-500- 9658
Email: Patricia.D.Mullen@uth.tmc.edu 
CPRIT Summer Myneni

Sahiti Myneni, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics
7000 Fannin
UCT 600
Houston, TX 77030
Phone: 713-486-0115
Email:  Sahiti.Myneni@uth.tmc.edu 
CPRIT Summer Sirisaengtaksin

Natalie Sirisaengtaksin, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
UTHealth McGovern Medical School
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
6431 Fannin St.
MSB 1.304
Phone: 713-500-5466
Email: Natalie.Sirisaengtaksin@uth.tmc.edu
CPRIT Summer Parks

Kandace Parks

Research Coordinator
UTHealth School of Public Health
7000 Fannin
UCT 2510j
Houston, TX 77030
Phone 713-500-9476
Email: CPRITSummer@uth.tmc.edu 

How to apply

Applications are now available electronically.

Please complete the application here

Mentor applications are due at 11:59 pm (CST) on January 17, 2020.

Mentors are not financially responsible for the trainee stipend. It is fully funded by the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas grant.

Comments from 2019 Mentors

"I have participated in the CPRIT Undergraduate Research Experience for the last few years and each time I find it to be an incredibly rewarding experience. The students get exposed to cutting edge approaches and topics in biomedical research, and the mentors get the satisfaction of introducing modern research to their trainees. In addition, the program really teaches the students to approach their research with an eye to innovation and impact. Most of the students that I have interacted with have found this program to be extremely useful in defining their future career goals."Jeffrey Frost, Ph.D.

"Through the CPRIT Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, our entire team was urged to expand our viewpoints and reach for novelty in every aspect of our student’s project. We held a clear vision of our project goal, but let the methods for reaching that goal remain fluid. On the first day that our student arrived, she and I sat in my office and made a plan for her to produce a poster and talk that would win awards, and she did! More importantly, it was always our goal to generate a paper with our student out of her summer work, and we’re finishing that manuscript now."Daniel Harrington, Ph.D.

"I have served as the mentor for three CPRIT undergraduate students over the past two years. It has been a very rewarding experience for both me and the summer students who worked in my lab. The CPRIT program allows the mentor and the students to work on biomedical research of their interests. All my CPRIT summer students were able to complete research projects that lead to peer-reviewed full articles." - Tao Cui, Ph.D.

"During 2015 summer, we actively engaged in the program and recruited a rising sophomore in Computer Science at UT Austin to our Patient Safety project. The experience stimulated enthusiasm for scientific research, which will be helpful for determining her career goal. On the other hand, her participation brought novel ideas to our project and accelerated our research progress."Yang Gong, M.D., Ph.D.

"My CPRIT fellows were great. They were very creative, action-oriented, and hard workers. They contributed significantly to adding different perspectives/components to the operation of my projects. Specifically, they created a video that introduces our study to participants, set up the study's twitter and Facebook accounts, and study website. They also actively participated in weekly project meetings proposing new ideas and expressing their opinions. I believe that CPRIT summer program provides fellows with great opportunities to think creatively, implement their ideas, and learn how research is conducted, while tackling challenging issues encounter in project operations." - Kayo Fujimoto, Ph.D.

Frequently asked questions by applicants 

Q: Who is eligible to apply?
A: All undergraduate students in colleges and universities across the United States who will be sophomores, juniors, or seniors in the fall semester of 2020.

Q: Can I apply if I have a G.P.A of less than 3.0?
A: Applicants with less than a 3.0 GPA will be reviewed on a case by case basis.

Q: Is this internship only for students interested in pre-medicine?
A: No, we encourage students from all majors and programs to apply.   

Q: Can I submit unofficial transcripts? 
A: Unofficial transcripts will suffice during the review of your application. If accepted to the fellowship, official transcripts will be required before you can be appointed. If you believe your official transcript will not arrive before the deadline, we suggest submitting unofficial transcripts with your application. Request official transcripts from your university as soon as possible.

Q: I am an international student on F1 visa. Can I apply for this fellowship?
A: Yes. International students currently enrolled in a US college or university can also apply. After acceptance into the program you will be required to apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) from the office of international affairs in your home institution.

Q: Can I submit letters of recommendation, or do they have to be sent directly by the recommender? 
A: Our online application contains a section where you can identify your recommender. We will e-mail them the information required to submit your letter. Although we may accept letters sent directly by you, this practice is strongly discouraged.

Q: Do all materials need to be sent electronically?
A: The application is now available online. You will have the opportunity to submit your materials within the application. Please follow the directions listed on the application regarding the naming convention of files. Official transcripts may either be emailed (if your institution participates in this practice) or sent directly to:

Kandace Parks
UTHealth School of Public Health
7000 Fannin St., UCT 2510j
Houston, TX 77030
Phone 713-500-9476
Email: CPRITSummer@uth.tmc.edu

Q: I was selected as a semifinalist. What does that mean? 
A: It means that you have been selected to indicate your top 5 project choices and to participate in  interviews that will be conducted by faculty mentors.  Final selections will be made based on the interviews.  The mentors and their individual projects will be listed on the website under the "Mentors Profile" tab in late January.