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2018 COMBIEL Summer Research Opportunities in Cancer Research

Background: The laboratory of Dr. Geoffrey Liu at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre focuses on a variety of aspects of cancer research, incorporating both wet and dry lab components, from cell line and xenograft mouse models, to large population studies of tissues, through to epidemiological (population) studies of risk and outcome of cancer, pharmacoepidemiology (the study of drugs in large populations), genomics (genetics of cancer) and patient reported outcomes (systematically collecting patient symptoms and toxicity as part of routine care and for research purposes). In the past five years, a summer research opportunity in clinical cancer research has been offered by the Laboratory of Dr. Geoffrey Liu to medical graduates, medical students, graduate and undergraduate students, as well as high school students studying from around the world. COMBIEL has hosted visiting scientists from Brazil and Mexico and trained students including undergraduates, graduate students, medical students, statistical interns and post-docs from Ireland, England, Scotland and Ontario. Recent COMBIEL trainees have gone on to medical schools in Ireland, Toronto, McMaster and Queen’s while others have enrolled in pre-med and medical programs at Harvard and other US schools. The summer of 2017 saw the return of three undergraduate students from the 2016 cohort who worked on specific projects during their second summer. New trainees included 5 University of Toronto medical students working within the Comprehensive Research Experience for Medical Students (CREMS) program, 3 medical students from other Ontario medical schools and abroad as well as numerous undergraduate students from various health science programs in Ontario. Over 90% of returning trainees have prepared, submitted and presented scientific posters at national or international conferences.


Purpose: To allow medical and pre-medical students the opportunity to experience medical research and clinical medicine in the cancer field. Description: The student will spend 8+ full-time weeks in one summer volunteering in a research laboratory at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Opportunities include: (1) recruiting patients in the clinic setting for survey projects; (2) formal teaching twice a week on research designs and methods; (3) data collection, abstraction and entry; (4) The student will also have one half day (4 hours) to shadow a physician, nurse, or researcher of her choosing for every 20 hours of volunteering; (5) Interact with other students, residents and fellows on an ongoing basis in a team environment. The commitment for 8 weeks (minimum) is firm, as there is otherwise too little time for the individual to explore all the various aspects of cancer care, clinical and translational research. No prior research experience is required.


Opportunities: The student will have a wide exposure to cancer research in the clinical setting. The student will participate in clinical research projects, and learn the basics about clinical epidemiology research methods. The student will interact on a daily basis with individuals at all levels of training including pre-med, PhD, post-doctoral fellow, medical students, residents, and clinical fellows. Finally there is the opportunity for students to have their name appear on abstracts and journal articles for which they have contributed.

The Application Process:


1. Write a letter (approximately 600 words) explaining:

(a) why you should be chosen for this summer opportunity;

(b) your future goals;

(c) how the opportunity will benefit you, socially and academically;

(d) where you see yourself in 10 years.

2. Create a curriculum vitae

3. Submit your application (letter and c.v.) to the COMBIEL Training Coordinator, Cathi Brown (

by Monday January 15th, 2018.

The Selection Process:  Applications will be reviewed by the staff at Dr. Liu’s laboratory, and if selected, will be invited for an interview that will take place in the early spring of 2018.

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