Cancer Research Conference for Science Teachers draws educators from across Florida

The UF Health Cancer Center’s fourth annual Cancer Research Conference for Science Teachers on July 18-19 drew 100 registrants from 27 counties across the state, with attendance nearly tripling from the first year it was held.

The UF Health Cancer Center held its fourth annual Cancer Research Conference for Science Teachers on July 18-19, drawing 100 registrants from across Florida.

The Cancer Center’s education program has built on the success, incorporating a new interactive pre-conference activity for a small group of teachers this year and garnering support from AstraZeneca, which also sponsored the Cancer Center’s Cancer Research Symposium for High School Students in January. The theme of this year’s conference was “Interdisciplinary research – no boundaries.”

“We are delighted that we were able to reach more teachers from across Florida this year to help us fulfill our mission of educating and training the next generation of cancer researchers,” said Dietmar Siemann, Ph.D., associate director for education and training at the Cancer Center. “We were proud to present a program that truly showcased the center’s multidisciplinary approach to cancer research, with presentations not only from biologists, but also from engineers, virologists and imaging experts.”

The free conference, held at the UF Cancer Genetics Research Complex, provides teachers a unique opportunity to hear about the leading-edge research taking place at UF on topics ranging from brain tumor immunotherapy to cardio-oncology. The conference aims to build relationships with statewide educators to raise awareness and share information about cancer risk and prevention.

The conference also included a social event at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center to allow the teachers to connect with UF faculty and trainees in a collegial setting. The Cancer Center reimburses teachers from outside of Alachua County for mileage and lodging to ensure cost is not a barrier for anyone to attend, allowing teachers from as far away as Miami to participate.

This year, UF graduate students led the pre-conference escape-room themed activity that challenged teachers to unravel the genetic puzzle of colorectal cancer using agarose gel electrophoresis. For the first time this year, the center also recorded presentations to build a repository for future use.

Miguel Tirado, an eighth-grade science teacher who will transition this fall to a new role as a high school chemistry and environmental science teacher in Orange County, attended the conference for the first time.

“As a teacher going into high school, I wanted to broaden my knowledge of topics like these so that I could transfer that to students, especially if it seems like they’re having that kind of interest getting ready for college,” he said. “It’s been very interesting. I like the interdisciplinary approach with engineers, biologists and virologists. I know there will be a lot of applications.”

The presentations from UF graduate students, which included insights about their career paths in cancer research, were a highlight for many teachers.

“I really liked the student presentations – students often don’t know about the different possibilities as far as careers go,” said Mary Fleming, who teaches ninth-grade biology and AP environmental sciences and biology at Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville. “I got a lot of new information to bring back to my students.”

Rachel Dellinger, who teaches AP physics, chemistry and biology at Tavares High School in Lake County and attended for the second time, agreed.

“I have a lot of stories to inspire my students with,” she said.

“I have a lot of stories to inspire my students with.”

Rachel Dellinger, science teacher

Thank you to all of our speakers who took the time to present lectures and participate in discussions with our community educators!

Faculty Speakers

Dietmar Siemann, Ph.D.

Professor and Associate Chair for Research, Department of Radiation Oncology
Associate Director, Education and Training, UF Health Cancer Center

Linda B. Bloom, Ph.D.

Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

DNA Damage Tolerance and Repair Helicases

Kiley Graim, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering

Data-driven Insights into Human Disease

Jonathan D. Licht, M.D.

Professor, Department of Medicine-Hematology/Oncology

Director, UF Health Cancer Center

Epigenetics and Cancer

Walter Lee Murfee, Ph.D.

Associate Professor & Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, Department of Biomedical Engineering

Cancer, Microcirculation, and Tissue Engineering

Walter O’Dell, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology

Imaging of Heart Function: Impact of Cancer Treatment on Cardiac Health

Arun Srivastava, Ph.D.

Professor and Chief, Department of Pediatrics-Cellular and Molecular Therapy

Gene Therapy of Liver Cancer with AAV Vectors

Trainee Speakers

Diliara Bagautdinova

Graduate Student, Mass Communication Program

Healthy Identity Development in Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology

Michael Dougherty

Graduate Student, Biomedical Sciences Program-Cancer Biology Concentration

The Gut Microbiome in Colorectal Cancer Etiology and Treatment

Laura Falceto Font

Graduate Student, Biomedical Sciences Program-Cancer Biology Concentration

Improving Brain Tumor Outcomes with Immunotherapy

Chayil Lattimore

Graduate Student, Biomedical Sciences Program-Cancer Biology Concentration

Analysis of miRNAs in Laryngeal Cancer Health Disparities

Beatriz Veronese

Graduate Student, Biomedical Sciences Program-Cancer Biology Concentration

Optimal Lytic Replication of Kaposi’s Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus

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