[MUSIC PLAYING] I was in the very first research start class in 2015 here at the University of Chicago, and since then, I've acted as a peer mentor for students in the program each summer.
As the hub of a group of local universities on the cutting edge of cancer research, the University of Chicago takes the initiative to expose the particular strengths of each institution's cancer research programs to gifted local students.

We started with maybe seven or eight students and had a couple of different universities we wanted to include. So it was University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Illinois Chicago, and then eventually brought in Northwestern.

ResearcHStart is a cancer research training program that's designed for high school students. It's a one year program, so students come to us for eight weeks in the summer. And the main component and most important component of this program is this intensive research experience.

Being able to actually experience what research is like, have the day-to-day work of being in a lab, learning how to interact with your lab mates, how to present your work made it really clear that I was on the right track and that this is what I wanted to do.

We try to complement that research experience with a number of career development and skill building, workshops, and opportunities.

The one non-lab skill I took away the most from was the ability to network. It teaches you how to meet with professionals, how to connect with them, how to email a professor. If I really like a professor's work, how do I let them know that? How do I let them know I'm may be interested in working for them?

Increasingly as ResearcHStart has developed, we've been trying to educate our communities about the advances in cancer research that are going on across our four institutions, and using specific examples from the research that they've been doing in the summer.

The return is in the heart. And when you see these kids go through this and talk about it, their experience, and talk to their families, to me that that's what it's all about.

To have this experience, where she actually spent eight weeks, 40 hours every week in research, really ignited a passion in her, which she has now continued, and I don't know that she would have known that was the right path for her until she actually was able to have this kind of experience.

So to see them go through and tackle problem after problem and overcome hurdle after hurdle as they learn new things and learn to develop confidence in themselves is really amazing. So to hear them speak about their work and about research at the beginning of the program and at the end of the program is like night and day. It's remarkable to see how sophisticated and confident they become in just a few weeks.

Before ResearcHStart, the biggest issue I had was like a math problem, and there's always a simple answer to that. Whereas in research and in life, there's not always a simple answer to the problem that you're addressing. Your research is going to take you in paths that you don't expect, and so ResearcHStart really taught me how to deal with the challenges that are thrown at you in research, and how to address them, and how to move past them, how to develop more questions from almost nothing.


ResearcHStart is a multi-institutional program welcoming high school students from the Chicago and Urbana-Champaign areas to explore exciting careers in cancer research. Participants work full time in the laboratories of established cancer researchers, gaining hands-on experience in areas at the forefront of the field: cancer immunology, bioengineering, experimental cancer therapeutics, cancer disparities and more.

Rigorous research training is complemented by career development and skill-building workshops, a cancer-based faculty lecture series, and a network of faculty and peer mentors dedicated to students’ success. The program culminates in a research symposium for family, friends and members of the scientific community. Participants receive a taxable stipend of $3,000.

About researcHStart

  • Introduce students to cutting-edge cancer research and promote career opportunities in the field
  • Help students gain knowledge in biophysics, biochemistry, immunology and pharmacology
  • Help students gain an understanding of cancer and its impact on Illinois residents
  • Hands-on experience in a cutting-edge laboratory or research group
  • Targeted career development and skill-building workshops
  • Ongoing mentorship from network of university faculty, research professionals, program personnel and peers
  • Exposure to Illinois’s top universities
  • Taxable stipend of $3,000
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Northwestern University
  • Rush University

ResearcHStart generally runs from the second full week of June through the first week of August. Specific dates are announced with the release of application materials each fall.

Please note that accommodations will be made for students whose last days of school overlap with the first days of the researcHStart program.

  • High school junior or senior at time of application
  • At least 16 years of age at start of program
  • Strong interest in a career in scientific research or medicine
  • Ability to commit to 8 full weeks of programming, 40 hours/week

Admission to researcHStart is highly competitive. No more than 30 participants will be selected, based on their demonstrated passion for science, interest in careers in biomedicine, and capacity to perform in a professional research setting.

Applications for summer 2023 are due by 11:59 p.m. CST on Monday, January 23, 2023.

To apply:

  • Attend the summer research program info session (Zoom webinar) on Thursday, December 15, 2023 from 6:30-8 p.m. CST. Register here.
  • Review the applicant information packet, accessible here.
  • Submit the online application form, accessible here.
  • Identify two individuals (at least one teacher) to complete the online applicant recommendation form, accessible here. An instruction sheet for recommenders is available here.
  • Applicants who advance to the second round: Complete an in-person interview with the program leadership team at the respective site, scheduled in February.  
Conflict of Interest Policy: The selection of applicants is managed by the site leadership teams. Immediate family members of the site leadership teams or of the researcHStart Advisory Committee are ineligible for the program. Immediate family members of faculty from a given site are ineligible for that site. All applications will be subject to the Conflict of Interest Policy.

Program Team


Eileen Dolan, PhD
Professor of Medicine, Section of Hematology/Oncology
Deputy Director, UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center

Sam Armato, PhD
Associate Professor of Radiology
Associate Director for Education

Megan Mekinda, PhD
Director for Education, Training, and Evaluation
Director, researcHStart
Basia Galinski, PhD
Scientific Liaison for Cancer Education
Michelle Domecki, BA
Cancer Education Coordinator


Rex Gaskins, PhD
Kelley Professor of Immunophysiology
Associate Director for Education, Cancer Center at Illinois 

Marcia Pool, PhD
Assistant Director for Education

Kristin Giglietti
Educational Program Manager and Instructor


Paul Grippo, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine
Associate Director, Cancer Research Enhancement and Education

Larisa Nonn, PhD
Associate Director, Education and Training

Ifeanyi Beverly Chukwudozie, MBA, MPH
Assistant Director, Cancer Research Career Enhancement and Education
University of Illinois Cancer Center

Nathaniel Squaire, BS
Program Coordinator, Cancer Research Career Enhancement and Education
University of Illinois Cancer Center

Amy Hayden
Writing Specialist


Marcelo Bonini, PhD
Associate Director, Education and Training

Gina Kirsammer, PhD
Research Assistant Professor

Sara Duffey, MSW
Senior Program Coordinator

Jeffrey Borgia, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine
Department of Cell and Molecular Medicine

Students & Alumni

Mariam Aljuboory
Lulu Allie
Feker Chane
Marcos Chavez
Aleksander Dale
Allyson Duong
Chukwuka Ejindu
John Farley
Eduardo Gonzalez
Sarah Guo
Jessica Kaiser
Varun Kanangat
Noam Kramer
Rena Li
Amy Li
Trisha Mondal
Anish Mukherjee
Moses Osineye
Jiya Pai
Harsh Patel
Iliana Perez
Samara Rezwan
Connor Roche
Joshua Song
Elia Suarez
Steven Uruchima
Mariam Vaid
Nandana Varma
Tyler Wang
Lily Weaver
Kaylen Baker
Maya Ballard
Swetha Chandrasekar
Atharva Desai
Montgomery Ellwanger
John Forsyth
Keshav Gandhi
Alex Gerber
Zachary Gillis
Vidya Gundlapalli
Leah Ju
Grace Juhn
Seoyeon (Esther) Lee
Nancy Limon
Andrew Littmann
Jaylen Lockhart
Kendall Morgan
Jasmine O’Connor
Aryav Panda
Sarah Park
Guadalupe Quinones
Anel Reinoso
Raneem Saadah
Ibrahim Salih
David Wang
Jada Williams
Natalie Zajczenko

Sidharth Addepalli
Anushka Agrawal
Justin Banks
Maggie Cao
Fiona Fryman
Eric Gan
Erica Guelfi
Emma Hambley
Zona Hrjnak
Amey Maley
Sophia De Oliveira
Ishaar Ganesan
Bridgette Garnache
Neha Hebar
Junbin Huang
Emily Oakley
Sidharth Panda
Omar Reyes
Olivia Sconyers
Abria Smith
Dyan Smith
Kate Stack
Diana Striyeshyn
Kristine Wang

Hassan Abioye
Christopher Adame
Uma Basole
Shyama Bhatt
Esther Chung
Ritu Dave
Alexander Dong
Jacob Gillis
Neha Gutta
Stephanie Herrera
Spencer Huynh
Hannah Lin
Abigail Molina-Calderon
Jacob Mozdzen
Anneliese Paton
Josh Sanford
Taliah Soleymani
Noah Taylor
Kareem Washington
Lauren Williams
George Yacu
Edith Yao
Justin Zhang
Eman Zwawi

Mayokun Abiona
Ngozi Amadikwu
Briana Benton-Price
Elizabeth Breen
Brandon Brown
Joy Chen
Yesenia Diaz
Robert Forsyth
Mahie Gopalka
Jasmine Harris
Cameron Herman
Angel Hernandez
Simon Hernandez
Kashif Javid
Jada Jefferson
Dalya Kanani
Maggie Li
Sarah Matatov
Aditi Mehta
Pooja Patel
Jarron Roy
Malaak Saadah
Julian Starks
Yichen Yao

Isabel An
Saneha Borisuth
Danielle Calloway
Olivia Coletta
Mayela Correa
Rohit De
Anusha Ebrahim
Samuel Hotchkiss
Talia Kahn
Kaviamuthan Kanakaraju
Katherine Maloney
Raisa Munshi
Caitlin O’Callaghan
Reuben Park
Roshni Patel
Sanya Rupani
Hailan Shanbhag
Zhixin Shou
Daniel Spalinski
Rebecca Valek
Jonathan Wang
Bhargav Yadavalli

Ebere Agwuncha
Alexandra Arca
Sarah Asson
Nipun Dubey
Kathryn Finn
Mona Kharoofa
Angela Lee
Isabella Lee
Maura McDonagh
Caroline Miller
Victoria Ogunro
Alexa Roman
Caroline Thomas
Leah Wallach
Sarah Whiteside
Arjun Zutshi

Advisory Committee

The researcHStart Advisory Committee provides strategic guidance regarding the program's continued growth and development.

Members include representatives from each participating program site, program donors and other members of the Illinois cancer community.

Dr. Sam Armato
University of Chicago

Dr. Jeffrey Borgia
Rush University

Beverly Chukwudozie
University of Illinois at Chicago

Debra Cohen 

Dr. Paul Grippo
University of Illinois at Chicago

Dr. Gina Kirsammer
Northwestern University

Jada Kline

Dr. Megan Mekinda
University of Chicago

Dr. Marcia Pool
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign