Not long after James Watson and Francis Crick published their landmark description of DNA’s double helix, and as scientists began grappling with the messages contained in genes, City of Hope opened its doors to young minds eager to join biology’s revolution.
|Sergei Rodin, right, discusses summer student programs with Eugene and Ruth Roberts. (Photo by p.cunningham)|
Some five decades later, on July 22, several hundred employees and students gathered at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology to commemorate the 50th anniversary of what is now called the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy.
The summer student program began informally in the late 1950s when several young students — mostly children of City of Hope staff — volunteered to learn about research. In 1960, Eugene Roberts, Ph.D., currently distinguished scientist emeritus, formalized the program and dubbed it the Summer Scholarship Program in Biomedical Research. It was renamed the City of Hope Summer Student Program in 1976. For many future investigators, the program offered the first steps toward successful scientific careers.
The recent golden anniversary event featured a lecture by Utpal Banerjee, Ph.D., from the University of California, Los Angeles. Banerjee described UCLA’s program for introducing hands-on laboratory research to early-stage undergraduates, a program that parallels City of Hope’s summer student academy.
Several City of Hope faculty members and administrators also spoke at the celebration.
Alexandra Levine, M.D., M.A.C.P., chief medical officer, attended the summer school program in 1966 and 1967. She told students she would “not be surprised if your lives will be changed because of this program, in the same way that my life was changed because of it.”
Levine studied under Eugene Roberts and former City of Hope researchers James S. Kittredge, Ph.D., and David Comings, M.D.
Paul Salvaterra, Ph.D., professor of neurosciences, has served as academic director of the summer student program for more than three decades. He acknowledged the Robertses’ contributions and those of several former and current City of Hope staff members.
“The Robertses have supported the summer student academy with their integrity, wisdom and vision, and we’re dedicated to carrying on their legacy for the next 50 years and beyond,” he said. “Science is a way of life as well as a way of thinking about the natural world. Our students learn that by coming and participating in these projects at City of Hope.”
In addition, Salvaterra noted the contributions of Steven Novak, Ph.D., director of professional education. Novak strengthened the program’s minority outreach and worked with City of Hope’s Development Group to bolster the program financially while further serving as an advisor, he said.
Summer student Santhosh Balasubramanian a sophomore at Princeton University in New Jersey, presented the Robertses with a commemorative plaque at the event.
“On behalf of all the students in this program, both present and past, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you, Dr. Roberts and Mrs. Roberts, for everything that you’ve done to make this program a success for 50 years,” he said.
In 2006, the program was named for its founder Eugene Roberts, Ph.D., and his wife, Ruth Roberts, both longtime City of Hope employees and staunch supporters of the academy.
What they did on their summer vacation
Fueled with 10 weeks of immersive research experience and an almost electric enthusiasm, 44 fledgling researchers presented their summer projects at the annual Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy Poster Session. More than 300 faculty, staff and students attended the event, held in Cooper Auditorium on Aug. 4.
The academy provides hands-on research training to high school and undergraduate college students for 10 weeks each summer. To date, the academy has trained more than 2,000 students.
This summer, 48 students from local high schools and from colleges and universities throughout the nation attended the academy.
City of Hope’s Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy aims to give students practical experience for careers in research and health sciences.