by Chung So and Alicia Di Rado
City of Hope’s program for aspiring young scientists has been named the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy in honor of the couple.
Eugene Roberts, Ph.D., director emeritus of neurobiochemistry, first created City of Hope’s summer program for high school and college students about 30 years ago. Now, a major gift from the Robertses has endowed the program, assuring it will continue for countless future students.
“We are honored to have this program named after us, and we hope the program will continue fostering the next generation of curious, bright minds in the context of City of Hope’s compassionate humanitarian mission,” Eugene Roberts said.
The research program provides high school and college students with 10 weeks’ worth of research opportunities regardless of prior qualifications and training. Students design and run experiments, analyze data and present their findings.
Roberts founded the program at City of Hope several decades ago after observing similar programs elsewhere.
“I was impressed with the young people who wanted to spend their whole summer learning, and programs like this give them invaluable hands-on experience in research,” Roberts said.
City of Hope leaders honored the Robertses at a recent ceremony. Accepting the Robertses’ gift were Theodore G. Krontiris, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president of medical and scientific affairs and director of City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Arthur D. Riggs, Ph.D., Beckman Research Institute director and professor of biology, Paul Salvaterra, PhD., professor of neurosciences and program director, Steven Novak, Ph.D., director of professional education, and Queenie Du, the program’s coordinator.
“We are grateful to receive this generous donation from Dr. Eugene Roberts and Ruth Roberts,” said Salvaterra. “Eugene Roberts has always had a keen interest in allowing young students to experience biomedical research firsthand.”
Few can testify to the academy’s success as well as the students themselves.
Maren Spolum, a University of Chicago graduate, is one such student. Spolum first arrived at City of Hope in 2005 to work in molecular biology with mentor Marieta Gencheva, Ph.D., research fellow in the lab of Ren-Jang Lin, Ph.D. “Marieta was wonderful to work with, and I really learned to focus during my summer here,” she said.
Then, while learning about her fellow students’ experiences, Spolum heard about investigations under way in the Department of Nursing Research and Education. She was intrigued with studies of cancer patients’ spiritual and psychological issues, and applied to return to City of Hope in 2006 to explore the topics.
Spolum tackled a variety of projects in Nursing Research and Education under the mentorship of Marcia Grant, R.N., D.N.Sc., the department’s director. She helped organize a cancer survivorship conference, planned a course and even learned how to write a grant proposal.
Her interest grew so strong that she now works as a coordinator in the department. “I feel so lucky,” Spolum said. “Everyone has taught me so much.”
This year, out of 490 applicants, 78 students like Spolum were selected for the academy, a record number. For more information on the program, visit www.cityofhope.org/summerstudent.