Mar 28, 2018 11:00 AM

pathmaker students talk together during a lunch activity
PathMaker students gain experience for health and biomedical research careers.

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) houses the PathMaker Cancer Research Program for high school and undergraduate students with backgrounds underrepresented in the biomedical workforce. Under the mentorship of an HCI scientist, PathMaker scholars conduct research and build a foundation for careers in health professions and biomedical research. This work is supported by NCI Grant# 3P30CA042014 and is a CURE Scholars Program.

Two PathMaker alumni, Diwas Gautam and Reuben Ryan Cano, were recently admitted to the highly competitive Broad Summer Research Program (BRSP) through Harvard and MIT. BSRP is an intensive nine-week summer research opportunity for undergraduates with a commitment to biomedical research and an interest in genomics. BSRP helps students nurture their passion for research and succeed in graduate school and scientific careers. 

We asked Diwas and Reuben a few questions about being selected for this prestigious research program.

Diwas Gautam and Reuben Ryan Cano
Diwas Gautam and Reuben Ryan Cano

What was your experience in the PathMaker program like? 

Diwas: The PathMaker program is one of the best programs I have ever been part of. I worked in the Villanueva lab where I looked at the transcription factor SOX6 and its ability to regulate fat cell differentiation. The research skills I learned and the relationships I formed through the program have had a huge impact on my academic career. The skills I learned put me ahead of most of my peers and helped me gain other research opportunities in college. The relationships I formed with the members of the Villanueva lab, especially Dr. Judith Simcox, are very meaningful to me. Dr. Simcox’s advice and support while I was in lab and after I left the lab have been immensely important in helping me reach where I am now.

Reuben: My experience in the PathMaker program introduced me to scientists who’ve helped me find a place for myself in science. I grew up in rural Utah, I’m a first-generation college student, and I’m the first one in my family to be born in the US. I had never met a scientist or a doctor who looked like me. This all changed when I was accepted into the PathMaker program. I was exposed to a vibrant community of scientists who share challenges similar to mine and have shown me the type of scientist that I want to become. My ongoing research seeks to better understand the regulation between the tumor suppressor BRCA1, and the transcription factor Oct1, and how this regulation can change the metabolism of cells into a more oncogenic state. 

Where are you in your studies now? 

Diwas: Currently, I am studying Neuroscience at Duke University. 

Reuben: Currently, I am continuing my research in Dean Tantin’s lab, volunteering as an interpreter at the U of U Hospital and Clinics, leading the main campus chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and finishing up my undergraduate studies at the University of Utah.

What do you hope to pursue in your future studies and career? 

Diwas: After completing my Bachelor’s degree, I hope to pursue a medical degree. 

Reuben: After my undergraduate studies, I plan to take a gap year to do research at the National Institutes of Health to gain the skills necessary to be a competitive applicant to MD-PhD programs. An MD-PhD will allow me to become a leader in my field of research, while still achieving my dream of alleviating the healthcare disparities that affect minorities, especially Hispanics. 

What are you most excited about for the Broad Summer Research Program? 

Diwas: I am excited to develop my scientific thinking and explore a new field of research. 

Reuben: Some of the most influential discoveries in modern history were made at Harvard and MIT. I grew up in a trailer park in a town of 2,000 people, so I never imagined that I would be able to do research at a place that brings together two of the world’s best research institutions. This is why I’m most excited about the possibility of taking part in research that can have a large impact on curing diseases, ameliorating suffering, and improving lives.

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