Congratulations to two School of Molecular & Cellular Biology PhD students who have been awarded Cancer Center at Illinois (CCIL) Graduate Cancer Scholarships to pursue cancer research projects under the mentorship of Illinois scientists.

You Jin Song is a graduate student research assistant in cellular and developmental biology. The CCIL scholarship will fund a project that will test whether Metastasis-Associated Lung Adenocarcinoma Transcript 1 (MALAT1)-mediated SRSF1 activity plays an essential role during hypoxia response in cancer cells. She will be working with CCIL members Prasanth Kannanganattu, professor of cell and developmental biology, and Erik Nelson, associate professor, molecular and integrative physiology. Song is studying the intracellular mechanisms of cellular processes during cancer progression.

Sarah Gardner is a graduate student research assistant in biochemistry. The CCIL scholarship will fund a project investigating how key enzymes and pathways regulate development of cancer stem cells. She will be working with CCIL associate member Jefferson Chan, assistant professor of chemistry, and CCIL Director, Rohit Bhargava, professor of bioengineering. Her long-term research goals include studying cancer stem cells and how their phenotype is influenced by the tumor microenvironment.

You Jin Song (left), graduate student in cellular and developmental biology, and Sarah Gardner (right), graduate student in biochemistry.

The scholarship funds will support projects starting in Fall 2021 – Spring 2022. The Cancer Center at Illinois Graduate Cancer Scholarship Program (GCSP) provides graduate students in CCIL member labs with experience preparing research proposals for supporting high-quality collaborative research conducted by those students.

Additional recipients include Bashar Emon, a graduate research assistant in mechanical science and engineering who will study the simultaneous biophysical and biochemical cellular interactions in 3D cancer models, and Yoon Jeong, a graduate student research assistant in bioengineering. Jeong’s project establishes a bacteria-oncological screening strategy based on High-throughput Phenotype Screening (HTPS) and explore the role of the microbiome in pancreatic cancer recurrence.

“A core mission of the Cancer Center at Illinois is to mobilize and inspire students across campus to pursue careers in cancer research,” Rex Gaskins, CCIL’s Associate Director for Education. “Not only do CCIL scholarships accelerate cancer discoveries at Illinois, but they provide students with real-world laboratory experience on exceptional, interdisciplinary teams.”

Learn more about the scholarship program.