EFCC Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)

As part of the University of Missouri’s NextGen Precision Health Initiative, the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center is developing novel approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. To develop a diverse and well-trained cancer research workforce, the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center has developed a Summer Research Program that will provide undergraduate students with an immersive 9-week training program in cancer biology.

Students in this program will carry out a cancer research project under the guidance of Ellis Fischel faculty mentors and participate in seminars and other activities that will enrich their understanding of new technologies that are revolutionizing the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Students in the EFCC Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) will participate in a fully loaded and exciting series of events including professional development seminars, professional headshots, networking receptions, immersive experiences, and have an optional clinical shadowing opportunity.
Ever wonder how cancer connects a research reactor, a veterinary medical center, and a cancer center? Throughout this experience you will see firsthand how the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center is moving cancer research and treatment forward.

Students should expect to work 40 hours per week in their lab, attend mandatory weekly meetings, and join in various professional development activities.

Students will receive:
  • Stipend of $5,400 (minus taxes)
  • On-campus housing – valued at $1,500, (air conditioned dorm room, 2 students per room)
  • Meal Plan – valued at $1,100
  • Travel to/from Columbia, Missouri (Limitations apply when traveling by personal vehicle. Based on mileage, up to $600 roundtrip.)

To be eligible to participate, applicants must have completed at least one year of full-time college enrollment prior to June 2024 and pursuing a major in a field related to the program to which they are applying. In addition, students must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States.

The deadline to apply is February 18, 2024. Students must complete the application form and provide an unofficial transcript (including Fall 2023 grades); letters of recommendation (two preferred); a resumé; and a personal statement indicating career plans, prior research experience, and research interests. Documents will be submitted with the online application.

Letters of recommendation may be sent directly to the Office of Undergraduate Research via e-mail to ugr@missouri.edu. Questions can be directed to the MU Office of Undergraduate Research via e-mail or phone, 573-882-5979.

Click here to apply!

2023 Ellis Fischel Cancer Center Summer Program Faculty Mentors

Ye Duan, PhD – https://engineering.missouri.edu/faculty/ye-duan/

Interested in furthering the fields of computer graphics, computer vision, machine learning, and biomedical imaging; electrical engineering and computer science; 3D Deep learning; fully automated deep neural networks; hybrid deep convolutional neural network model.

Jane McElroy, PhD – https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/jane-mcelroy-phd

Jane McElroy, professor and epidemiologist in the Family and Community Medicine department at University of Missouri (MU). She is co-director of a newly founded rural health research center. One element of the RHRC is expanding the Missouri practice-based innovations network (MO-PIN), a clinic-based network for bidirectional engagement in research endeavors among (rural) healthcare clinics/systems and researchers. Dr. McElroy’s research focuses on cancer prevention and more recently on Colorectal Cancer Screening in partnership with FQHCs, COVID-19 and Influenza.  Besides cancer and viral exposures, Dr. McElroy is invested in reducing health disparities. She has expertise in sexual and gender minority (aka LGBTQ) issues with federally funded projects and publications.

Patrick Tassone, MD – https://www.muhealth.org/doctors/patrick-tassone-md

Dr. Patrick Tassone is a head and neck surgeon who treats benign and cancerous tumors in the mouth, throat, voice box, neck and salivary glands. He is able to remove the tumor and perform reconstructive surgery on adult patients. Using his specialty training in reconstruction, Dr. Tassone can restore form and function for patients whose cancer surgeries require removal of important structures. As part of our team approach to cancer care, Dr. Tassone also offers his patients clinical trials for head and neck cancers. He’s actively involved in research and has received funding to study the metabolism of head and neck cancers to better understand cancer cell growth and how doctors might be able to stop or slow cancer growth.

Bret Ulery, PhD – https://engineering.missouri.edu/faculty/bret-ulery/

Design of biomaterials for medicinal applications, specifically focusing on generating engineered solutions capable of providing the cues necessary to facilitate in situ bioactivity. Current efforts are on addressing new approaches for cancer therapy, vaccine delivery, autoimmune treatment, and orthopedic tissue repair.

Timothy Wolf, PhD – https://healthprofessions.missouri.edu/personnel/timothy-wolf/

Concepts of Neuroscience, application of evidence based practice, and functional cognition. Key interests: nucleotides; Autoimmune Diseases; Nucleotide receptors; Autoimmune exocrine diseases; Inflammation in signaling. stroke; mcst; rehabilitation; mild; efpt; participation; pqrs; performance; nihtb; cognitive; individuals; ctpa; care; ot; participants; post; battery; op; self; occupational; activities; validity; executive; work; activity.

Dong Xu, PhD – https://engineering.missouri.edu/faculty/dong-xu/

Bioinformatics, machine learning, protein structure prediction, post-translational modification prediction, high-throughput biological data analyses, silico studies of plants, microbes and cancers, and mobile App development for healthcare.

Iris Zachary, PhD – https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/iris-zachary-phd

Cancer Registry, SEER, Public health informatics, chronic disease and condition data, public health research development, cancer informatics, connected communities.

Ann Bettencourt, PhD, – https://psychology.missouri.edu/people/bettencourt

My current research interests include applying mindfulness theory and practices to improve intergroup and interpersonal relationships. Research categories include: Intergroup contact and cooperation, personal and couple functioning and well-being, especially among breast cancer survivors, Meta-analytic methods.

Abigail Rolbiecki, PhD – https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/abigail-j-rolbiecki-phd-mph-msw

Family Community Med I have an ongoing study in the AIU looking at impact of a mindfulness based virtual reality intervention combined with neurofeedback on cancer symptoms for pts who are actively receiving anti-cancer treatment.

Jane McElroy, PhD – https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/jane-mcelroy-phd

Jane McElroy, professor and epidemiologist in the Family and Community Medicine department at University of Missouri (MU). She is co-director of a newly founded rural health research center. One element of the RHRC is expanding the Missouri practice-based innovations network (MO-PIN), a clinic-based network for bidirectional engagement in research endeavors among (rural) healthcare clinics/systems and researchers. Dr. McElroy’s research focuses on cancer prevention and more recently on Colorectal Cancer Screening in partnership with FQHCs, COVID-19 and Influenza.  Besides cancer and viral exposures, Dr. McElroy is invested in reducing health disparities. She has expertise in sexual and gender minority (aka LGBTQ) issues with federally funded projects and publications.

Jeffrey Bryan, DVM, PhD, MS – https://muidsi.missouri.edu/person/jeffrey-n-bryan/

Comparative examination of cancers in companion animals to better understand cancers in all species; targeted imaging and therapy and epigenetics of cancer.

Bo Lu, MD, PhD, DVM – https://precisionhealth.missouri.edu/people/bo-lu-phd

Develop more effective and less toxic cancer therapy through mechanistic studies in mouse models and translational research using clinical samples from cancer patients.

Akhil Srivastava, PhD – https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/akhil-srivastava-phd

Dr. Srivastava leads projects studying the molecular basis of cancer pathophysiology and developing novel anti-cancer therapeutic strategies focusing on Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) or ‘exosomes.’ The area of interest includes elucidating the function of cancer cell-derived EVs in creating a favorable ecosystem for establishing a cancer lesion site, modulating the immune system, and developing resistance to therapies. He is also interested in studying the molecular composition of EVs to decipher stringent molecular signals that can be used to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools for high-precision cancer diagnosis and treatment prediction. In addition, to leverage the translational potential of EVs, Dr. Srivastava has engineered EVs as a novel biomimetic multifunctional theranostic system for the simultaneous tumor-targeted delivery of anti-cancer therapeutics and imaging.

Donald Burke-Aguero, PhD – https://bondlsc.missouri.edu/person/donald-burke-aguero/

Exploring the many roles of ribonucleic acid, or RNA; using cell biology, biochemistry, and sophisticated computational approaches to compare millions of RNA molecules, looking for the ones that can do helpful jobs.

Chiswili Yves Chabu, PhD – https://biology.missouri.edu/people/chabu

Oncogenic mutations in EGFR or RAS activate a complex network of cell-cell signaling events in the cancer microenvironment. These signals promote cancer growth, metastasis, cancer immune escape, and drug resistance. We are interested in delineating these mechanisms to identify actionable targets against EGFR/RAS cancers.

Mark Hannink, PhD – https://cafnr.missouri.edu/person/mark-hannink/

Novel mitochondrial targets for cancer therapeutics.

Gerhard Hildebrandt, MD – https://www.muhealth.org/doctors/gerhard-hildebrandt-md

Cancer Center Director; BMT, Blood Disorders; Hildebrandt Lab Research: Dr. Hildebrandt’s research interest includes acute and chronic lung injury after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation. Graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) is a condition that is common following an allogeneic stem cell transplant. The donor stem cells used in an allogeneic stem cell transplant can recognize a patient’s healthy tissues as foreign and mount an attack against them; this results in GVHD. There are two types of GVHD: acute GVHD and chronic GVHD. GVHD can be life-threatening and can greatly reduce the quality of life of a survivor. Treatment for GVHD typically includes steroids. However, once a patient stops responding to steroids (steroid-refractory), effective treatment options are limited. B cells and T cells are the immune cell associated with GVHD. We are involved in finding a promising treatment for patients with GVHD and testing the safety of various drugs to find the highest dose that can be given safely to prevent and treat GVHD.
We are extending our study to study lung complications during GVHD. Lung injury after allogeneic (allo) hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) significantly contributes to morbidity and mortality after transplant. Our ongoing microbiome study focuses on analyzing the differential bacterial community relying on 16S rRNA gene sequencing (Mi sequencing) on the lung samples. This requires high performance computer to utilize computational methods data analysis.

Guangfu Li, MS, PhD, DVM – https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/guangfu-li-phd

Our research aims to elucidate the underlying mechanisms by which tumor growth induces immune tolerance towards development of effective antitumor immunothearpy. By working seamlessly with clinician scientists including Drs. Kevin Staveley-O’Carroll, Eric Kimchi, Jussuf Kaifi, I expect to rapidly translate cutting-edge basic science discoveries into relevant therapeutic strategies that can be implemented in clinical practice or disseminated to population-based community interventions. Using immunocompetent mice, we established clinically relevant murine model for different cancers including hepatocellular cancer and pancreatic cancer. Using these models, we have explored different ways to overcome tumor-induced immunotolerance and develop immune-based combinational therapies to eliminate the established tumors. By charactering circulating tumor cells (CTCs), we also investigate the value of CTCs in cancer diagnosis, metastasis, and treatment.

Jussuf Kaifi, MD, PhD – https://www.muhealth.org/doctors/jussuf-kaifi-md

Identifying the molecular mechanisms of micro metastatic tumor spread by which malignant cells detach from the primary tumor undetected by standard imaging and eventually cause metastases in distant organs as the major final cause of cancer-associated deaths. Mechanisms in which tumor cells circulate in the blood and settle in other organs to grow to solid tumors will allow for the identification of pharmacological targets that can be exploited to destroy malignant disease and increase cure rates of cancer patients.

Xunlei Kang, MD, PhD – https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/xunlei-kang-md-phd

Hematopoietic stem cell study; Leukemia stem cell study; SUMO modification study; Fasting selectively blocks development of acute lymphoblastic leukemia via leptin-receptor upregulation; Inhibitory leukocyte immunoglobulin-like receptors: immune checkpoint proteins and tumor sustaining factors; A novel ITIM receptor-mediated signaling pathway is essential for acute myeloid leukemia development.

Margaret Lange-Osborn, PhD – https://scholars.umsystem.edu/scholar/stack/13556/MARGARET-LANGE-OSBORN?instId=7&unitId=1067&unitType=2

Understanding the mechanisms underlying recognition of nucleic acids by pattern recognition receptors and how these recognition events shape immune responses to inform design and development of novel immunomodulators for precise, tunable regulation of cellular signaling pathways across diverse cancer types.

Jonathan Mitchem, MD – https://muidsi.missouri.edu/person/jonathan-b-mitchem/

Applicability and efficacy of immune based therapy in colorectal cancer, chemotherapy on T cell exhaustion and the utility of bioinformatic techniques to determine dysregulated immune pathways in CRC, impact of innate immune cell activation in the tumor microenvironment, immune modeling of human tumors using organoid models, genomic/biomedical informatics in cancer, deconvolutional approaches to bulk RNA-sequencing data and single nucleus RNA-sequencing.

Michael Petris, PhD – https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/michael-petris-phd

Pathways of copper acquisition and handling to promote tumor survival and metastasis. Copper; Cancer; Infectious disease; Nutrition; Metals. Molecular biology
Cancer biology; Nutrition; Cell biology; Biochemistry; Metabolism; Animal models of disease.

Haval Shirwan, PhD – https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/haval-shirwan-phd

Immune engineering as a platform to modulate immune responses in health and disease. Development of novel immune ligands (biologics) and their targeted delivery using various platforms (biomaterials, live vectors) for immunomodulation with focus on cancer immunotherapy and immunoprevention, vaccinology, autoimmunity (type 1 diabetes as primary focus) and transplantation.

Akhil Srivastava, PhD – https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/akhil-srivastava-phd

Dr. Srivastava leads projects studying the molecular basis of cancer pathophysiology and developing novel anti-cancer therapeutic strategies focusing on Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) or ‘exosomes.’ The area of interest includes elucidating the function of cancer cell-derived EVs in creating a favorable ecosystem for establishing a cancer lesion site, modulating the immune system, and developing resistance to therapies. He is also interested in studying the molecular composition of EVs to decipher stringent molecular signals that can be used to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools for high-precision cancer diagnosis and treatment prediction. In addition, to leverage the translational potential of EVs, Dr. Srivastava has engineered EVs as a novel biomimetic multifunctional theranostic system for the simultaneous tumor-targeted delivery of anti-cancer therapeutics and imaging.

Jack Tanner, PhD – https://cafnr.missouri.edu/person/jack-tanner/

Structural biology; development of proline analogues as cancer therapeutics.

Urology Cancer Research Lab (Fang, Yujiang/Wakefield, Mark)
https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/yujiang-fang-md-phd
https://www.muhealth.org/doctors/mark-wakefield-md
  1. Cancer Immunotherapy: Cytokine-based cancer immunotherapy has been a new hot spot for cancer treatment for years. Recently several new projects have been developed in urology lab about the direct effects of cytokines (such as IL-38, IL-39 and IL-41) on tumor proliferation, apoptosis, senescence and metastasis in many cancers (prostate cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, brain tumor, melanoma). The underlying molecular mechanisms of the effects of cytokines on tumor cells will be further investigated.
  2. Cancer Radiation Sensitizer: Some cancers are among the more radioresistant malignant tumors. A safe and effective radiosensitizing agent is needed to allow a decrease in the radiation dosage and side-effects associated with radiation. In recent years, fruit and vegetable extracts such as extracts from blueberry, raspberry, cranberry, kiwi, cilantro, asparagus, celery have been studied for use as cancer radiosensitizers in some cancers such as prostate cancer, cervical cancer and brain tumor.
  3. SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and cancer. In 2022, we reported that ARS-CoV-2 spike protein inhibits growth of prostate cancer by a couple of mechanisms. This may suggest that the introduction of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein into the body via COVID-19 vaccination may have the potential to inhibit prostate cancer in patients. This potential beneficial association between COVID-19 vaccines and prostate cancer inhibition will require more extensive studies before any conclusions can be drawn about any in vivo effects in a human.
Gary Weisman, PhD – https://cafnr.missouri.edu/person/gary-weisman/

Utilization of hematopoietic stem cells for treating bone marrow failure syndrome and hematological malignancies. Development of cell-based therapies for treatment of autoimmune diseases and allograft rejection.

Esma Yolcu, PhD – https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/esma-yolcu-phd

Utilization of hematopoietic stem cells for treating bone marrow failure syndrome and hematological malignancies. Development of cell-based therapies for treatment of autoimmune diseases and allograft rejection.

Theranostics and Cancer Imaging
Carolyn Anderson, PhD – https://chemistry.missouri.edu/people/anderson

The development of novel radiometal tracers, molecular imaging and theranostic agents targeting various types of cancer, with a focus on metastatic melanoma, from chemistry to first-in-human studies.

Gregory Biedermann, MD – https://www.muhealth.org/doctors/gregory-biedermann-md

Dr. Gregory Biedermann is a radiation oncologist who has been at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center for the past three years. He sees adult and pediatric patients diagnosed with cancer. His areas of interest are head and neck cancers, brain cancers and stereotactic radiation. Dr. Biedermann performs the majority of brachytherapy, also called internal radiation therapy, that is available at Ellis Fischel.

W. Barry Edwards, PhD – https://cafnr.missouri.edu/person/barry-edwards/

Developing radiotracers for diagnostic imaging and targeted radiotherapy of cancer. PHI Focus Area: Radiology. Research interests include development optical probes for optical imaging of enzyme activity and the development of phage displayed and combinatorial peptide libraries for discovery of ligands for molecular imaging.

Bo Lu, MD, PhD, DVM – https://precisionhealth.missouri.edu/people/bo-lu-phd

Develop more effective and less toxic cancer therapy through mechanistic studies in mouse models and translational research using clinical samples from cancer patients.

Charles Jeffrey Smith, PhD – https://medicine.missouri.edu/faculty/charles-jeff-smith-phd

Radiopharmaceutical sciences design, focusing on development of novel theranotic probes for prostate and breast cancer detection and therapy. 1. Main group chemistry including inorganic and organometallic polymers; 2) Design and development of polydentate, water-soluble, complexing agents for technetium and rhenium radiometals; 3. Radiopharmaceutical design and development including isotope processing and purification, radiotracer design based upon small molecule ligand frameworks and large molecule cell-targeting agents, and in vitro and in vivo diagnostic/therapeutic probe development investigations. 4) Monovalent and bivalent analogs and nanoparticles of gastrin releasing peptide (GRP), prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA), and RGD (arginine-glycine-glutamic acid) radiolabeled with In-111, Y-86/90, Lu-177, Au-198/199, Ga-67/68, and Cu-64.

Design of biomaterials for medicinal applications, specifically focusing on generating engineered solutions capable of providing the cues necessary to facilitate in situ bioactivity. Current efforts are on addressing new approaches for cancer therapy, vaccine delivery, autoimmune treatment, and orthopedic tissue repair.

Additional questions may be directed to the Office of Undergraduate Research, ugr@missouri.edu or (573) 882-5979

If you would like to preview the application, click below.
Application Link

Deadline to apply will be February 18, 2024