high school student working in cancer lab

ResearcHStart welcomes 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 $2,500.

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 $2,500
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Northwestern University
  • Rush University

ResearcHStart generally runs from the third week of June through the first full 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
  • Strong academic record, particularly in math and science
  • 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 stated interest in the program, academic record, and letters of recommendation.

To apply:

  • Review the applicant information packet
  • Submit the online application form 
  • Identify two individuals (at least one teacher) to complete the online applicant recommendation form 
  • Applicants who advance to the second round: Complete an in-person interview with the program leadership team at the respective site.

Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, we will not be accepting applications for summer 2021. Please sign up for our mailing list to receive information about possible online enrichment activities through spring 2022.

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
Associate Director for Cancer Education

Kathleen Goss, PhD
Associate Director for Administration

Megan Mekinda, PhD
Assistant Director for Cancer Education
Director, researcHStart

Michelle Domecki, BA
Cancer Education Coordinator


Rohit Bhargava, PhD
Founder Professor in Engineering
Director, Cancer Center at Illinois

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

Margaret Browne Huntt, PhD
Assistant Director for Strategic Research Initiatives & Chief Diversity Officer, Cancer Center at Illinois

Marcia Pool, PhD
Assistant Director for Education


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

Marian Fitzgibbon, PhD
Professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy and Administration
Associate Director, Health Equity and Community Engagement

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

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


Gina Kirsammer, PhD
Research Assistant

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

Students & Alumni

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. Rohit Bhargava
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Jeffrey Borgia
Rush University 

Debra Cohen

Ira Cohen

Dr. Eileen Dolan
University of Chicago

Dr. Kathy Goss
University of Chicago

Dr. Paul Grippo
University of Illinois at Chicago

Jada Kline

Dr. Megan Mekinda
University of Chicago

Pat Yuzawa-Rubin
Circle of Service Foundation