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June 15, 2011

Internships Begin at SIU’s Simmons Cancer Institute

Three college students who plan careers in medicine with an interest in cancer research have begun their summer internships at Simmons Cancer Institute (SCI) at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield.

The students who plan careers in medicine or research have the opportunity to learn basic lab techniques with supervision during the 10-week program.  Each will work with a full-time faculty member who is a member of the research team at Simmons Cancer Institute.

“The internships provide hands-on experience for undergraduate college students who may want to focus on cancer research as they pursue their medical degree,” said Dr. K. Thomas Robbins, SCI director.  “From our perspective, it is also an investment in research because another bright young mind may choose the field as a result of this experience.”

This is the third year for the summer research program.  Twenty-two students applied for the positions that were awarded on a competitive basis.  The 2011 interns are: 

Catherine Carney, of Marion, is a student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she is majoring in chemistry.  Carney will be working with Dr. Deliang Cao, Ph.D., associate professor of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology.

Carney credits her father, a chemist, and her mother, a physician, with her pursuit of a career in both research and medicine. “I have always had a passion for problem-solving.  Pursuing a career as a medical practitioner and researcher would allow me to incorporate these interests,” she said.

Oliver Droefenu is a native of Ghana who recently graduated from Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield and will attend SIUCarbondale in the fall, majoring in biochemistry and pre-med.  He will be working with Sophia Ran, Ph.D., associate professor of medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology.

Droefenu said his interest in medicine began after a friend received life-threatening injuries in a car accident.  His experiences as a student and a volunteer solidified his interest in medicine and the field of oncology. “A career in research is one of my considerations because the researchers today help find the solutions to the problems of tomorrow,” he said.

Edie Graham, of Springfield, attends the University of Notre Dame.  Her major is pre-professional and American studies.  Graham will work with Randolph Elble, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology.

Graham intends to go to medical school and hopes to “learn more about the exciting field of breast cancer research as well as understand how specific genes are involved in tumor cell proliferation.”

The Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU is focusing the medical school’s efforts in cancer research, physician and public education, and treatment for patients from across central and southern Illinois.  Its website is and its phone number is 217-545-6000.