ET CURE Research Internships


The ET CURE Program – Emerging Technologies Continuing Umbrella of Research Experience – is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. It engages the scientific curiosity and promotes the potential cancer research careers of promising undergraduate students from underserved and disadvantaged populations.

We believe that reducing the disproportionate burden of cancer incidence and mortality in many ethnic and racial groups will depend substantially on the presence of culturally sensitive, well-trained scientists from these populations.

Defining Emerging and Nano Technologies

As a revolutionary new technology, nanotechnology has the potential to impact almost every area of society. Nanotechnology medical developments over the coming years will have a wide variety of uses and could potentially save a great number of lives.


  • Involves manipulating properties and structures at the nanoscale, often involving dimensions that are just tiny fractions of the width of a human hair
  • Holds the promise of providing great medical benefits for society in the future
  • Is already being used as the basis for new, more effective drug delivery systems and is in early stage development as scaffolding in nerve regeneration research
  • It is already moving from passive to active structures through more targeted drug therapies, or “smart drugs.” Smart drug therapies are now known to cause fewer side effects and be more effective than traditional therapies.

Nanotechnology advances will aid in the formation of molecular systems that may be strikingly similar to living systems, like regenerating or replacing body parts that are currently lost to infection, accident, or disease.

The NCI created the Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer to stimulate breakthroughs in detecting, diagnosing, and treating various forms of cancer. UC San Diego created the Center of Nanotechnology for Treatment, Understanding, and Monitoring of Cancer (NANO-TUMOR) (

Benefits for selected candidates

  • Paid laboratory research internships within UC San Diego, up to 15 hours per week during the academic year, and 40 hours per week during breaks
  • A faculty mentor in nanotechnology research to work directly with you.
  • Staff and faculty will work with you in preparing for graduate school.
  • Successful completion of the ET CURE Program will give you special consideration for admission to UC San Diego graduate programs involved in nanotechnology cancer research.


For more information, contact Tim Johnston.

ET CURE Program Summary

This program specifically targets UC San Diego undergraduate juniors and seniors for paid, hands-on bench cancer research using emerging technologies. If you’re a UC San Diego undergraduate student selected for this program, you’ll be:

  • Placed in active research laboratories under the supervision of highly successful research mentors
  • Exposed to rich, scientific environments to gain experience, self confidence, and motivation to pursue a PhD degree
  • Expected to participate in a mentored research project, seminars, workshops, a peer mentoring program, and other regular laboratory activities, such as group meetings and journal clubs
  • Encouraged to take a graduate course in the PhD program you wish to pursue and receive assistance in preparing a successful graduate school application, including classes on preparing for GRE testing

The overall goal of ET CURE is to address the inequity in the number of disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students involved in cancer disparities research, and ET CURE training is consistent with the National Institute of Health (NIH) goals for 2010 that stresses the importance of increasing the number of minorities in biomedical research with a focus on health disparities.

Education/Training at UC San Diego in ET/ONCOLOGY

UC San Diego already has in place courses and seminar series to provide a broad education in ET-oncology at the undergraduate and graduate level.

How to Apply / Selection Criteria

Initial criteria

  • U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • UC San Diego sophomore, junior, or senior with previous laboratory experience
  • UC San Diego student majoring in Biology, Bioengineering, Bioinformatics, Chemistry/Biochemistry, Nano Engineering, or related majors
  • Interest in cancer-related research using emerging technologies
  • Interest in pursuing a PhD and considering a career as a professor and researcher

Additional criteria (may be considered; included in personal statement)

  • Demonstrated success in overcoming significant educational, social, cultural, or economic disadvantage or adversity in a way that displays persistence, determination, hard work, and resourcefulness. This might include the absence of a role model, absence of an immediate family member who received a bachelor’s degree, graduation from a low-performing high school with limited offerings, or economic hardship that required the applicant to work during high school or college to support the family or save money for education.
  • A commitment to and a strong potential for success in cancer research
  • Outstanding potential for leadership in diversification of academic research, such as tutoring or mentoring younger underrepresented students to prepare for college; membership in groups that addressed diversity issues; or individual efforts

Application information

To apply for this program, you’ll need to submit the following:

  • Resume and background information
  • Personal statement to explain why you may be interested in a career as a professor at a research university; why you may be interested in pursuing cancer research; describe any experience with research, nanotechnology and/or cancer research; describe how you have promoted diversity and state your commitment to research
  • Indicate your planned graduation date
  • Unofficial transcripts of all your grades (your transcript copied from TritonLink)

Questions and submission

Contact Tim Johnston for more information or to submit your application.

Faculty Mentors

Dennis Carson, MD

Professor Emeritus, Medicine
Director, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center 


Autoimmune Disease, Cancers of the lymphoid tissues

My laboratory studies autoimmune diseases and cancers of the lymphoid system. We aim to delineate molecular differences between pathologic and normal tissues that can serve as targets for therapy. We have discovered two new targets during the last year.

Seth Cohen, PhD

Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry


Professor Cohen’s group works on the design, synthesis, characterization, and evaluation of new metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). MOFs are an up-and-coming class of materials that combine organic ligands and metal ions to generate porous materials with defined topologies. His group works in collaboration with the Moores Cancer Center developing MOFs for drugs delivery since these particles are so small that they might readily diffuse into tumors. Of the five PhD students that have graduated from his lab, two were men and three were women. One of the men was also an URM student (Hispanic). Dr. Cohen has mentored several students through the UC San Diego STARS program, a summer research program supporting URM students. In coordination with student/outreach affairs, Dr. Cohen has been a liaison for UC San Diego to campuses with large number of URM students, including San Diego State University and the University of Puerto Rico, Rio.

Michael J. Heller, PhD

Professor, NanoEngineering and Bioengineering


Professor Heller’s research is directed at the development of new molecular diagnostic devices and systems for cancer and other diseases. More specifically, his research involves the development of novel dielectrophoretic systems for the isolation and detection of rare cancer cells, DNA nanoparticulate biomarkers and drug delivery nanovesicles directly in blood and plasma. Dr. Heller is an internationally renowned expert in molecular and DNA genotyping diagnostics and has over 40 US patents in the area, has published a considerable number of papers, given more than sixty invited presentations at conferences and meetings and has started several high tech companies in the area. Dr. Heller has several minority students and one female postdoctoral fellow. Dr. Heller has provided opportunities for undergraduate students to carry out summer research work in his lab before entering their PhD programs.

Thomas Kipps, MD, PhD

Professor, Medicine
Contact by Email


Oncology, Translation, Translational Oncology

Research interests include immunology, gene therapy, lymphoma, leukemia, neoplasia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, arthritis, and AIDS-associated lymphoma. Special Capabilities: Molecular biology, gene therapy, immunobiology.

Andrew Kummel, PhD

Professor, Chemistry & Biochemistry


Array Detectors, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Microfabrication Tools, Nanotechnology

We investigate the chemistry of microelectronics processing using both room temperature (RT) and low temperature (LT) scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and spectroscopy (STS), molecular beams, laser spectroscopy, impedance spectroscopy and density functional theory (DFT) calculations.

Dwayne Stupack

Professor, Pathology
Director of the BMS Undergraduate Core Course
Director, Basic and Translational Research Rounds, Moores Cancer Center


Professor Stupack’s research is directed at understanding how cells survive during metastasis, interacting with their immediate microenvironment. Dr. Stupack is interested in applying the interaction of metastatic and stromal elements as a modality to detect, and possibly treat, metastasis. Professor Stupack has participated as a mentor in UC San Diego programs directed at minority education, including community outreach programs to underrepresented high schools, and currently is mentor to two underrepresented students and co-mentor to a minority fellow. Professor Stupack is a Director of an imaging project on the ICMIC grant at UC San Diego and a member of the CCNE, and has worked to apply emerging technologies to the study of cell biology and cancer.

William Trogler, PhD

Professor, Chemistry & Biochemistry


Antibody Arrays, Array, Fabrication, Nanomaterials, Sensors

Our research focuses on new nanostructured materials for gene and drug delivery, as well as surface functional reagents for cell patterning. New aqueous and air stable reagents have been prepared for attaching cell specific antibodies or proteins on elemental oxide surfaces. Methods for attaching nonbiofouling surface reagents have also been developed. These studies for new analytical approaches to cancer cell detection are being done in collaboration with the research groups of Drs. Blair and Kummel.

Judith Varner, PhD

Professor, Medicine


Angiogenesis, Metastasis

Tumor angiogenesis depends on growth factors and on cell adhesion receptors called integrins that interact with matrix proteins such as fibronectin, fibrinogen and proteolytically cleaved collagen. Endothelial cell migration and angiogenesis depend upon the interaction of these matrix proteins with a subset of integrin receptors, such as a5b1 and avb3. This interaction is required to suppress activation of protein kinase A, which, when activated, blocks endothelial cell migration, induces endothelial cell apoptosis and inhabits angiogenesis. Protein kinase A activation perturbs normal cycling of small GTPases Rho and Rac and blocks activation of critical focal adhesion regulatory proteins such as FAK and paxillin, leading to inhibition of cell migration. Activation of protein kinase A can also inhibit tumor cell migration and metastasis. Based on these observations, we are investigating the potential of gene therapy as novel therapies for cancer and other diseases.

Jean Wang, PhD

Professor, Medicine / Biological Sciences


Cancer, Growth Control, Molecular Pharmacology, Pharmacology, Responses to Extracellular Stimuli and Stress, Stress, Urologic Cancer.

Projects include:

  • Identification of a DNA damage activated signaling pathway through the mismatch repair protein to c-Abl to p73, leading to the activation of apoptosis. Defect in this apoptosis pathway accounts for the drug resistance of mismatch repair-deficient tumors.
  • Identification of a nuclear export signal in c-Abl, demonstrating those c-Abl shuttles between the cytoplasmic and nuclear compartments.
  • Identification of a novel function for the retinoblastoma protein in the inhibition of DNA replication. Identification of DNA damage-activated RB dephosphorylation in S-phase cells. Demonstration that RB is required for an intra-S arrest in response to DNA damage.
  • Identification of a differentiation-programmed activation of p38 MAP kinase. Identification of a defect in this pathway in human Rhabdomyosarcoma. Demonstration that the enforced activation of p38 MAP kinase can rescue the differentiation defect of Rhabdomyosarcoma to induce terminal growth arrest.

Joseph Wang, PhD

Professor, NanoEngineering


Our research interests include nanobiotechnology, nanobioelectronics, nanomaterials-based sensors, nanomotors and nanoactuators, design of nanostructures and novel interfaces, synthesis and applications of novel nanowires, carbon-nanotubes for enhanced sensing and fuel cell applications, nanoparticle tags for amplified/multiplexed biodetection, nanoscale barcodes, nanomedicine, DNA and proteins diagnostics, remote sensors, and nanosensors for biomedical, environmental and security applications.

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