Tiffanie Cappello Lee didn’t know what she wanted to study in college when, as a high school student, she applied to the Helios Scholars at TGen summer biomedical internship program.

She had no background in cancer research, let alone biology, when she landed last summer in the lab of one of the nation’s most noted experts in pancreatic cancer: “I didn’t even know what a pipette was!” she recalled.

Today, Cappello Lee begins a second summer as a Helios Scholar in the team science lab of Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, Distinguished Professor and Physician-In-Chief of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), and TGen Associate Professor Dr. Haiyong Han.

She is one of 45 interns who Monday start a paid, 8-week program through Helios Scholars at TGen, in which Arizona students are paired with world-class TGen scientists — receiving one-on-one mentorship on research projects that aim for new scientific discoveries that will benefit patients today.

This is the 10th anniversary of Helios Scholars at TGen, which has trained nearly 400 students to become the next generation of researchers and physicians in Arizona’s fast-growing field of biomedicine.

Supported by the Helios Education Foundation since 2007, Helios Scholars at TGen is open to Arizona high school, undergraduate and graduate level students, including those in medical school. More than 500 students applied for this summer’s 45 positions.

Cappello Lee’s first-year experience in Helios Scholars at TGen boosted her confidence and heightened her expectations of what she could accomplish.

Now, on the heels of winning a prize in March for her cancer research at the 2016 Arizona Science and Engineering Fair (AzSEF), Cappello Lee will continue her research this summer of biomarkers that might predict patient response to a new class of cancer drugs. And, in August she is poised to start her freshman year under full scholarship at Notre Dame University.

“I credit Helios for my love of research, and why I want to do research in the future,” said Cappello Lee. “It seems crazy for me now to realize that something that I almost didn’t consider — because I didn’t think I was good enough to get into such a program — would become such a big part of my life.”

And she isn’t nearly done exploring, either scholarly or literally. While the Helios experience has locked-in her love of science, she still is searching for a specialty field. And, later this summer, Cappello Lee — who has never camped before — will begin two-weeks of backpacking in Washington’s North Cascade National Park as part of her Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program at Notre Dame. She was one of 20 students selected for the program from among nearly 1,000 applicants worldwide.

“Helios is such a unique experience and I wish that there was the potential for every student interested in science to participate. It was just so important for me, especially going into my senior year, and not knowing what I wanted to do with my college experience,” Cappello Lee said. “Helios definitely helped mold me into the person with the interests that I have today.”

Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation, said Cappello Lee is a prime example of how Helios Scholars at TGen helps develop participants’ full potential.

“Through the Helios Scholars at TGen program, students are gaining valuable, first-hand experience in a professional scientific laboratory that helps prepare them for success in college and career,” Luna said. “The combination of expert mentorship and scientific investigation is helping to cultivate the next generation of scientists who will be on the cutting edge of scientific and medical research.”

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. This summer’s program concludes July 29 with a scientific symposium highlighting the accomplishments of the 2016 Helios Scholars.

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.

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