Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the YES for CURE program helps eligible students acquire scientific knowledge and technical skills while increasing their understanding of how to conduct biomedical research. Applicants must meet certain criteria to apply for the program, including be a first-generation college student or represent a racial or ethnic group considered underrepresented in the sciences. With more than 1,000 applicants for just 20 research positions, YES for CURE is a competitive program that provides unique access to one of the world's most-renowned cancer research institutions.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn hands-on how to conduct scientific research and to build community with Boston-area students from under-represented groups in the sciences who have a passion for science and health-related careers," said Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Anupama Seshan, who personally nominated and mentored Saldarriaga for the program.
Since their acceptance to the program, Rico, a neuroscience major, and Saldarriaga, a biology major, have begun "Skills and Solutions Training," a twice-per-week series of sessions that cover essential research skills and scientific concepts before they begin the program's intensive summer tier. During these training sessions, graduate students from Harvard mentor program participants on their lab skills and scientific-journaling process, a system that will continue throughout the summer.
Both Rico and Saldarriaga were encouraged to apply for the program by members of the biology faculty—Saldarriaga by Dr. Seshan and Rico by Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Janel Cabrera.
After her first class with Dr. Cabrera, Rico dropped in during office hours to tell her about herself, her interests, her goals—and especially—her desire to conduct undergraduate research. After a couple months, Rico's desire became "a dream come true" as Dr. Cabrera contacted her about applying to YES for CURE.
"I decided to come to Emmanuel because of its location in the mecca of medical breakthroughs," Rico said. "I thought it was the best place to be for the undergraduate research and the opportunity to form valuable relationships with professors."
For Saldarriaga, the drive to combat cancer began early on, both motivated by the prospect of helping others and, ultimately, of finding a cure. She too is excited at the opportunity to participate in the YES for CURE program.
"Growing up, cancer had a big impact on my family," said Saldarriaga. When I started to really understand what it was and what it meant, I knew that I wanted to do something about it. I knew that by coming to Emmanuel I would definitely find an opportunity that would lead me down the right path."