Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Undergraduate Research Opportunities


Division of Cancer Research and Training


Division of Cancer Research and Training Division of Cancer Research and Training

The Education and training Program in the CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership is dedicated to training undergraduate, graduate, and medical students, as well as fellows, and early stage investigators to cancer research training, encourage them to pursue or advance their careers in this area, and implement a formalized mentorship program, whereby junior research investigators are counseled and mentored through their career development. The Division of Cancer Research and Training which houses the CDU Partner of the CDU/UCLA Cancer Center has to date, under the lead of Dr. Jay Vadgama, participated in the training of over 32 postdoctoral fellows, 13 clinical residents, 15 graduate and medical students, >80 undergraduate students across the nation, and several high school students. Many of the students, are on a positive trajectory to further their careers. For example, several of the undergraduate trainees have successfully matriculated into graduate or medical school and several post-doctoral fellows have received faculty appointments as Early-Stage Investigators.



The program has several categories of internships for different levels of researchers including the Undergraduate Cancer Research Training Program (UCRTP) which is a summer-intensive internship.
The summer UCRTP program is 8-12 week full time experience for 10-12 outstanding underrepresented or underprivileged undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing careers in biomedical sciences and have an interest in health disparities. Trainees accepted into the program are matched with a Faculty mentor at CDU or UCLA and will participate in research with a hypothesis-driven cancer health disparities question. In addition to hands-on research training, students will participant in weekly Cancer Journal Club at CDU which is a CME accredited series dedicated to cancer health disparities research in the basic, clinical and community sciences. Trainees will receive instruction from their mentors and the UCRTP regarding careers in biomedical sciences and careers serving the underserved. Additional training will include development and preparation of a research thesis, and formal presentations at lab meetings, and the Cancer Journal Club at CDU.
The goal of the UCRTP is to ensure that each undergraduate student acquires the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to become a proficient researcher in cancer research and disparities. On completion of the program, each undergraduate trainee will have developed a research paper based on the findings of the ancillary project to be given to his or her lead mentor for evaluation and feedback. Students will then present their findings before a local or national conference, to be determined by the student’s lead mentor.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: http://www.cdrewu-dcrt.org/

Please use the online application form available at


Director: Dr. Jay Vadgama (jayvadgama@cdrewu.edu; 323-563-4853)
Program Administrator: Marianna Sarkissyan (mariannasarkissyan@cdrewu.edu: 323-563-5937)
Program Coordinator Dr. May Ong (mayong@cdrewu.edu ; 323-563-5936) .




STEP-UP The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health is the sponsor for the STEP-UP Program. The program provides an opportunity for high school and undergraduate students to conduct biomedical research for eight (8) to ten (10) weeks in the summer in labs throughout the country. 

The purpose of the program is to increase the number of ethnic minorities who are involved in biomedical research with an emphasis on the areas of diabetes, digestive and kidney diseases. There is a critical shortage of minorities in biomedical research and the health professions (Hispanic/Latino, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Islanders, and Alaskan Native Population). As a result, critical insights and perspectives from these groups are lacking in the development, implementation, and evaluation of the growing and important field of biomedical research and health science. The program is a collaborative effort between the NIH and CDU as well as University of California San Francisco, University of Hawaii and the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

While the NIH provides funding and program oversight, the day-to-day coordination of the program is handled by the four Program Coordinators at these institutions. This program is designed to provide high school students with an opportunity to work in a biomedical laboratory. While some local students learn at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, it is a national program and we make arrangements for students around the country to get connected to a research laboratory near their home. Each student is paired with an established researcher and may be assigned to a research team. Students will work with staff on a specific research project such as, diabetes, obesity, kidney disease and other health related topics. 

The 8-10 week program provides students with real experiences including opportunities to:

  • Learn what biomedical research entails by being actively involved in a project. - Learn laboratory and research protocols.
  • Learn how to develop a hypothesis and then to systematically approach how to prove or disprove it.
  • Train with faculty and staff in laboratory, research and administrative procedures required for conducting academic research.
  • Be a member of a team; understand collective responsibility.
  • Prepare and present research findings at the annual NIDDK research symposium at the NIH in Bethesda Maryland.

Program Highlights

  • 8 to 10-weeks of full-time research experience with flexible starting dates, determined by location.
  • Summer research stipend.
  • Students are assigned to one of four High School STEP-UP Coordinating Centers to help coordinate and monitor their summer research experience.
  • Students are paired with experienced research mentors at institutes throughout the nation.
  • Students are encouraged to choose a research institute and/or mentor near their hometown or within commuting distance of their residence. Students are not required to relocate in order to conduct their summer research.
  • Students receive training in the responsible conduct of research.
  • All-paid travel expenses to the Annual High School STEP-UP Research Symposium held on NIH’s Main Campus in Bethesda, Maryland--gives students the opportunity to conduct a formal oral and poster research presentation.

Mrs. Dolores Caffey-FlemingFor More Information Contact:
Mrs. Dolores Caffey-Fleming
Program Coordinator
(323) 249-5716


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