DF/HCC CURE Program Transcends Borders

JuLY 5, 2017

For the first time in CURE program history, Boston-based CURE students extended their network internationally by working with Paris-based students participating in Les Cordées de la Réussite program at University Paris-Est Créteil (UPEC). Both programs focus on introducing high school and college students from under-represented populations to the world of scientific research. On June 26, students in Boston and Paris connected via videoconferencing to conduct a journal club and discussion about cancer and the environment. This trans-Atlantic journal club allowed students from both programs to engage with their foreign counterparts around the shared topic of cancer research.

Connecting the Future of Research

Dr. Maud Gilles, second-year CURE mentor and postdoc in Dr. Frank Slack’s lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), was a teacher of practical lessons in biochemistry with the Cordées de la Réussite program during her PhD at UPEC. Dedicated to mentoring young scientists, upon arrival to BIDMC for her postdoc, Dr. Gilles expanded her mentoring experience by becoming a mentor of a CURE summer student. Sensing an opportunity for an inspired collaboration, she approached CURE Coordinator Dr. Emily McMains and Deputy Associate Director, Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities Karen Burns White during the Fall of 2016 regarding the possibility of having the two programs working together. “Science is a sharing of knowledge so I think it's very helpful to both groups of students to start connecting from the high school and undergraduate level to share knowledge and their point of views about scientific questions,” explained Dr. Gilles.

The two student groups swapped shirts and hats via post ahead of the journal club. Here are Les Cordees de la Reussite students sporting their new Red Sox hats.

The two student groups swapped shirts and hats via post ahead of the journal club. Here are Les Cordees de la Reussite students sporting their new Red Sox hats.

Monday morning’s program began with a brief welcome from both Dr. Christophe Morin, director of Les Cordées and Vice Dean of Instruction in the Faculty of Science and Technology program at UPEC, and Ms. Burns White. Dr. Gilles lead the discussion regarding the papers the students read prior to the meeting: The Commonly Used Antimicrobial Additive Triclosan Is a Liver Tumor Promoter published in PNAS that explored the tumorigenic properties of an additive to common household products and a New York Times article Why a Chemical Banned From Soap Is Still in Your Toothpaste that provided real world application and cultural background of the concepts brought up in the PNAS paper. Both articles align with this summer’s CURE program theme – cancer and the environment. Once the students completed their prepared questions on the papers, they asked one another questions about science and academics in their respective countries. 

Many More to Come

Across the board, the program was deemed a success. Sebastian Palacio-Ramirez, current CURE student, said, “It was quite enjoyable being able to connect with students that had very different perspectives and ideas. It was also interesting to see how different people can connect through the power of science.” Further Abby Joseph, current CURE student, explained, “It reaffirmed that science is an international discipline that thrives on communication and sharing of ideas between countries and across continents.” Reflecting on the program, Ms. Burns White said, “The breadth of the discussion, clearly demonstrated their interest and investment in the process. We were delighted to participate and look forward to building on this experience.” Dr. McMains added, “It was striking, and as a program coordinator deeply satisfying, to see how students from both sides of the Atlantic were able to unpack the science and the main points of the papers despite the newness of the material.” Dr. Morin exclaimed, “it was an amazing afternoon in France! I think that it’s great, as a teacher, to see my students discussing science, ethics, and economy with foreign students!” 

DF/HCC is looking forward to continuing this trans-Atlantic partnership in future CURE programs. The CURE program sends a special thank you to Dr. Maud Gilles, Dr. Christophe Morin, and Les Cordées de la Réussite program. 

CURE

The CURE program, which launched in 2002, introduces high school and college students from underrepresented populations to the world of cancer research by placing them in real research settings at local cancer research institutions. The goal is to encourage students to pursue future careers in the biosciences—particularly cancer research—giving practical meaning to academic course work and to expand and extend their interest in basic, clinical and/or population science research.

Les Cordées de la Réussite
Les Cordées de la Réussite program launched in 2011, and now involves 1200 middle and high school pupils and about 50 students from University Paris-Est Créteil (UPEC) directed by Dr. Christophe Morin, Vice Dean of Instruction in the Faculty of Science and Technology program. This program aims to boost ambition and to promote equal opportunity by using science.  Target groups of the program are economically, socially and geographically disadvantaged pupils from public middle and high schools, as well as students of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology program from the same backgrounds. The initiatives that are being carried out by the UPEC students include tutoring, providing educational guidance, and organizing of scientific workshops for middle and high school pupils. Students of the Faculty of Sciences who participate in Les Cordées de la Réussite also tutor first-year university students and intend to become teachers or researchers.