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2018 University of Hawaii Cancer Center Summer Interns

June 4, 2018

High school and undergraduate students conduct innovative cancer research at the UH Cancer Center

HONOLULU –Twenty-three high school and undergraduate students conducted cancer research at the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center over the summer with support from both federal grant funds and generous philanthropic contributions from community groups.

This year’s internship program at the UH Cancer Center is supported by generous contributions from the Friends of the UH Cancer Center, the McInery Foundation, the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, the Meiji Yasuda Endowment, Dennet and Karen Azuma, the EACH Foundation along with some federal funding through the National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant.

“Community engagement is very important as part of our UH Cancer Center mission. Through this internship program we are able to reach out to young students across the island and help them get exposed to new research advances and innovative biomedical research,” said Randall Holcombe, MD, MBA, UH Cancer Center director.

“The Friends of the UH Cancer Center is honored to support this great local summer internship program where students receive valuable cancer research experience. We believe these eager students are Hawai‘i’s future bright scientists,” said Adelia Dung, Friends of the UH Cancer Center president.

The interns were chosen through a highly competitive process from public and private schools across the state and the nation. Out of 73 total applications 23 students were selected with an average GPA of 3.78. The internship projects include focuses such as cancer prevention and control measures, cancer epidemiology, bioinformatics, and basic cancer biology. The students receive a stipend to support their work, which is conducted over a two-month span. More than half of the Center’s summer interns are minority students who are interested in pursuing careers in science.

“Every summer, it is exciting to see how students with different backgrounds work on various research projects. What is noteworthy about the UH Cancer Center program is the opportunity for students to contribute to population studies that aim to lower cancer rates through improvements in lifestyle factors,” said Gertraud Maskarinec, Summer Internship Program director.

The internship program provides valuable research experience, and exposes young people to possible careers in the life sciences. Past program interns have gone on to earn advanced degrees from top universities before returning to work in Hawai‘i as physicians or scientists.

The Cancer Center’s program places interns under the guidance of faculty mentors, who help them gain research experience and complete an independent project. Past projects have included the study of how e-cigarette advertising affects use among young adults, a sun safety intervention program in an at-risk cohort of high school student athletes and developing a machine-learning pipeline to classify single-cell gene expression in cancer cells. At the end of the summer, Interns will present their research findings to their peers and to Cancer Center faculty at a poster session.

“Educating students is a priority for the UH Cancer Center. Tracking the progress of past student interns shows us that what they learn during the internship helps them pursue degrees and jobs in not only the cancer research field, but the medical and technology field as well,” said Joe W. Ramos, PhD, UH Cancer Center deputy director.

More poster presentation photos

2018 Cancer Center Summer Interns and their respective Mentors
Four High School StudentsMentors
Terric Abella (Kamehameha High School)
Peter Hoffmann, PhD
Aldrich Solomon (Waipahu High School)
Gertraud Maskarinec, MD, PhD
Bernadette Dela Cruz (Farrington High School
Pallav Pokhrel, PhD
Nalani Miller (Kamehameha High School)James Turkson, PhD
Nineteen Undergraduate Students
Shaina-Marie Acosta (Waipahu High School) attending Notre Dame De NamurKevin Cassel, DrPH
Rachel Arakawa (Kaiser High School) attending Chaminade UniversityPeter Hoffmann, PhD
Chloe Asato (Mililani High School) attending UH MānoaYurii Shvetsov, PhD
Theodore Huo (Punahou) attending University of California, BerkeleyPeiwen Fei, MD, PhD
Gabriella Jelffs (St. Andrew’s Priory) attending UH MānoaMichele Carbone, MD, PhD
Victor Kilonzo (Vilseck High School) UH MānoaRandall Holcombe, MD
Nina Krupa (Le Jardin) attending UH MānoaErin Bantum, PhD
Ethan Lee (Punahou) attending Cornell UniversityJohn Shephard, PhD
Eileen Liu (Punahou) attending Tufts UniversityPeiwen Fei, MD, PhD
Kevin Liu (Iolani High School) attending Carnegie Mellon UniversityMichelle Matter, PhD
Jhon Michael Malabed (Farrington High School) attending UH MānoaCarol Boushey, PhD
Daniel Ota (Punahou) attending Creighton UniversityMichelle Tallquist, PhD
Emily Rapoza (Punahou) attending Washing University in St. LouisKevin Cassel, DrPH
Richard Rista (Kamehameha High School) attending Creighton UniversityJames Turkson, PhD
Kayzel Tabangcura (Maui High School) attending UH MānoaPallav Pokhrel, PhD
Lindlelyn Tabula (James Campbell High School) attending UH MānoaYouping Deng, PhD
Anna Wen (McKinley High School) attending UH MānoaJoe Ramos, PhD
Lacye Yata attending UH MānoaJoe Ramos, PhD
Melanie Yuen (Iolani High School) attending Washington University of St. LouisHaining Yang, MD, PhD


The University of Hawai'i Cancer Center through its various activities, cancer trial patients and their guests, and other visitors adds more than $54 million to the O'ahu economy. It is one of only 70 research institutions designated by the National Cancer Institute. Affiliated with the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, the Center is dedicated to eliminating cancer through research, education, patient care and community outreach with an emphasis on the unique ethnic, cultural, and environmental characteristics of Hawai'i and the Pacific. Learn more at Like us on Facebook at Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter.