Skip to main content

Cancer Biology (Cluster)

Programs and Events

Cancer biology is a major area of study for students in the DGP and IBiS graduate programs, as well as students in the MSTP program. The Cancer Biology curriculum extends beyond departmental boundaries and across the Evanston and Chicago campuses. 

The Cancer Biology Cluster strives to foster an environment of belonging, support, and access to career development opportunities for the diverse students studying cancer biology across Northwestern’s campuses. We listen to and engage with our community and value feedback and teamwork to make the program vibrant. A monthly newsletter keeps everyone up to date on opportunities.

Cancer Biology Cluster students actively participate in:

  • The Cancer Biology Research Club
  • Mini symposia called “Nanocourses”
  • Seminars sponsored by the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Annual Cancer Biology Cluster welcome reception
  • Career development activities and other social events

Joining the Cancer Biology Cluster: Students rotate through laboratories in the first year of graduate school and if a cancer-focused mentor and research project are selected, students may join the Cancer Biology Cluster. Students do not need to be offered a spot on the Carcinogenesis training grant to be a part of the Cancer Biology Cluster and associated activities. The Cluster is for all students studying cancer biology.

The following curriculum and educational enrichment programs are key features of the Cancer Biology Cluster:

Training Grants: A total of seven students each year from the Cancer Biology Cluster are selected to be supported by an NCI-funded T32 “Carcinogenesis” training grant. Students are nominated by their advisor in the summer preceding their second year for appointment in fall of the following year. Please click on the link to learn more about the training grant and application process.

Pre-doctoral Fellowships: Two additional Cancer Biology Cluster students per year may be awarded pre-doctoral fellowships to perform cancer-related research projects together with the Carcinogenesis T32 cohort. Students go through the same application process outlined in the above link.

Travel Awards: Cancer biology students are eligible to apply for travel awards that partially support attendance at national or international meetings with a cancer or career development focus.

Annual Symposium and Poster Session: Each summer, the Annual Cancer Center Symposium features a poster session aimed at allowing students to present their work to other students, post-docs and faculty associated with the Cancer Center. The best poster presentations are selected for poster awards. Selected graduate students and post-docs are invited to speak in this Symposium.

Journal Clubs and Seminars: Students are encouraged to attend Journal Clubs, which are advertised in the Cancer Biology Cluster newsletter. Attendance is required for all T32 trainees. Students are also strongly encouraged to attend the weekly Cancer Center Basic Research Seminar Series, which showcases the research of prominent guest speakers and Northwestern faculty. In addition, students help develop an annual Nanocourse on a hot topic in cancer research.

Career Development Activities: Students have the opportunity to attend career development workshops and seminars hosted by the Cancer Biology Cluster throughout the year. These seminars feature speakers from diverse scientific career paths and aim to prepare students for their future careers.

Cancer Biology Research Club: A student-run research meeting meets monthly during the academic year, allowing students and post-docs to present their research to peers. No PIs allowed! Each session allows 1-2 students to present their research in whatever format they choose while also leaving ample time to gather feedback and discuss science with their peers in a relaxed yet collegial environment. Free lunch is provided!

Student Leadership Opportunities: Students have the opportunity to join leadership of the Cancer Biology Cluster to serve roles such as:

  • Student Representative to the Lurie Cancer Center Education Committee
  • Cancer Biology Research Club Director
  • Diversity/Equity/Inclusion/Belonging Specialist
  • Communications Specialist
  • Recruitment Specialist
  • Career Development Specialist
  • Nanocourse Planning Committee Member

Leadership positions remain open for the 2023-2024 academic year! Please contact the below current student leaders for more information.

Who to Contact

Cancer Biology Cluster Directors

Cancer Biology Cluster Student Directors 2023-2024

  • The Cancer Biology Training Program requires core knowledge of cell biology, molecular biology and genetics, and biochemistry. In addition to core courses in these areas, a foundation course in Tumor Cell Biology (TCB) should be taken in the first year. TCB formally introduces students to the principles of tumor pathology, such as oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, DNA repair, genomics, tumor invasion and metastasis, and tumor immunology.
  • Advanced readings courses are also offered for all Cancer Biology Cluster students. Trainees appointed to the Carcinogenesis T32 must complete the “Mechanisms of Carcinogenesis” course, but we also encourage all students interested in cancer research to take this course. This course provides training in critical evaluation of the literature, development of a grant proposal, and the fundamentals of the peer review system. Each student will work closely with a faculty mentor to write and defend a research proposal.
  • Students in Cancer Biology frequently complete additional elective advanced courses in areas encouraged by their departments and programs such as Pharmacology, Receptors and Effectors, Eukaryotic Cell Biology, Cytoskeleton, and Immunology.