Cancer research

Helios Scholars at TGen celebrates 10 years

Helios Education Foundation and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) celebrated the 10th year of their premier internship program partnership, Helios Scholars at TGen, preparing students for college and career, and helping produce the next generation of Arizona’s biomedical workforce.

Alumni from among the more than 400 graduates of the internship program joined Helios and TGen, their scientific mentors, and community, business and education leaders, at the Arizona Biltmore to celebrate the students’ many accomplishments.

Helios Scholars at TGen is an eight-week, paid summer internship in which students are paired with TGen’s world-class scientists on research projects that aim for new molecular-level discoveries about neurological disorders, infectious diseases and many types of cancer.

“These are exactly the type of opportunities that Arizona needs — opportunities for students to work on unique challenges, practice creative thinking, and engage in problem solving within a technology-rich environment,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a video message presented at the celebration. “This is helping patients right here, right now.”

Since its inception in 2007, Helios Scholars at TGen has been the research institute’s flagship summer internship program for Arizona students looking to further their interest in bioscience and medicine.

At present, 60 percent of Helios Scholars alumni still reside in Arizona. Of those who do not, 46 percent report being likely to return in the future. These bright minds are also achieving the highest levels of excellence in academia, with 51 percent pursuing or holding advanced degrees. The Helios Scholars at TGen program is growing the knowledge-based talent pool with motivated, engaged citizens.

“TGen nurtured in me an inquisitive mind that has extended into my current clinical medical practice and influenced my choice to pursue a career in academic radiation oncology where I can continue cancer research in an effort to improve the care of my patients,” said Dr. Joshua R. Niska, a resident physician in radiation oncology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, who was selected for the Helios program in 2007 and 2008.

Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen president and research director, said the 10th anniversary of Helios Scholars at TGenrepresents a milestone in this innovative program that has helped launch the careers of many promising and talented researchers and physicians: “In partnership with Helios, these students have experienced what it is like to pursue patient-centric research on the frontier of genomic medicine.”

Scholars boast an array of impressive accomplishments including acceptance into top tier graduate and medical schools, unique career developments, national awards and scholarships, and authorship credit in numerous scientific publications.

“We are proud of the impact Helios Scholars at TGen has had on the lives of hundreds of talented students in Arizona,” said Paul J. Luna, president and CEO, Helios Education Foundation. “This program provides a diverse student population with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in an intensive, hands-on, scientific learning experience, and it propels them toward achieving success in college and career.  We look forward to the next 10 years, and beyond, of this impactful program.”

In addition to patient-focused research, Helios Scholars participate in professional development seminars, including science communication, public speaking and basic business etiquette, as well as social activities to build and strengthen relationships between students. The program concludes each summer with a scientific symposium highlighting their research findings.

“As the students’ skills develop, they establish a degree of independence in their projects and build confidence in their ability to conduct complex research,” said Brandy Wells, TGen director of Public Affairs and Education. “TGen is grateful for Helios’ desire to create an innovative program with the longevity necessary to make a powerful impact on the lives of Arizona students and the larger Arizona economy.”

Helios Scholars at TGen is open to Arizona high school, undergraduate and graduate level students, including those in medical school.

Applications for the 11th class of Helios Scholars at TGen will be accepted starting in January 2017 at www.tgen.org/intern. More than 500 students applied this year for the 45 available internships. For more information, contact Julie Euber, TGen Education and Outreach Specialist, at 602-343-8459, or jeuber@tgen.org.