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NMSU students hone research skills in internships at national cancer research center

Nine students from New Mexico State University traveled to Seattle this summer to join the research labs of award-winning scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.


Nine students stand in front of the Seattle skyline.
Nine New Mexico State University students were selected to take part in an immersive nine-week internship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The students include: (back row from left) Isabella Terrazas, Troy Weeldreyer, Katrina Keding, Juan Carlos Padilla, Rhiana Thomas, Claudia Rice, (front row from left) Izak Rubio, Nicole Mandall and Adriena Hernandez. (Courtesy photo)
Man stands next to research poster.
Troy Weeldreyer, a New Mexico State University graduate student studying social work and public health, stands with his winning research poster entitled, "Correlates to Mental Health in Sexual Minority Colorectal Cancer Survivorship." Weeldreyer was one of nine students from NMSU to take part in a summer internship program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. (Courtesy photo)
Woman works with test tubes in science lab.
New Mexico State University undergraduate student Isabella Terrazas works in the lab of Denise Galloway, a scientist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who studies cancer-causing viruses. Terrazas was one of nine NMSU students to take part in an immersive nine-week summer internship at Fred Hutch. (Courtesy photo)

The nine-week paid internship program is supported in part by the Partnership for the Advancement of Cancer Research, a federally funded partnership between NMSU and Fred Hutch. The partnership, which began in 2002, received a $12 million, five-year renewal in 2018 from the National Cancer Institute to continue its efforts to advance cancer research among underrepresented scientists.

The NMSU students, six undergraduates and three graduates, were part of a cohort of 34 students from around the nation to participate in the nine-week internship program and be placed in the labs of Fred Hutch scientists.

The NMSU interns (and mentors) include Katrina Keding (Boba Beronja, Human Biology Division), Izak Rubio (Taran Gujral, Human Biology Division), Isabella Terrazas (Denise Galloway, Human Biology Division), Rhiana Thomas (David MacPherson, Human Biology), Adriena Hernandez (Marian Neuhouser, Public Health Sciences Division), Nicole Mandall (Heather Greenlee, Public Health Sciences), Juan Carlos Padilla (Anne McTiernan, Public Health Sciences), Claudia Rice (Jaimee Heffner, Public Health Sciences), and Troy Weeldreyer (Rachel Ceballos, Public Health Sciences).

In addition to completing an independent research project, the internship provided students with options for professional development, career exploration and an opportunity to present their research to the entire Fred Hutch community at a final poster session.

Weeldreyer, a graduate student studying social work and public health, received one of the two awards for best poster presentation at the session for his poster entitled “Correlates to Mental Health in Sexual Minority Colorectal Cancer Survivorship.”

Weeldreyer said this internship offered an experience that is not always easily available for students in underserved areas such as New Mexico.

“The biggest takeaway for me was that we need more students involved in research projects like this, especially at the undergraduate level,” said Weeldreyer. “I did have a research experience in undergrad, but it wasn’t nearly at this level and at this caliber.

“The undergraduates I spoke to were doing things I wouldn’t have imagined were possible at the undergraduate level. So, I think it’s incredibly important that we get people that are traditionally not included in the research, or whose perspectives are not heard, at these prestigious institutions like the Hutch.”

Hernandez, an undergraduate student studying public health and anthropology, echoed Weeldreyer’s sentiment, adding that part of what made the summer internship so valuable was the access to resources and one-on-one relationships with the researchers.

“I got to develop great relationships with the people I worked with there, like my mentor Dr. Marian Neuhouser,” said Hernandez. “I was able to speak with them about long-term goals, career options and options for school. That was really memorable.”

The interns from NMSU are presenting their summer research findings at conferences and symposia throughout the year, including NMSU’s upcoming Research and Creativity Week from November 12-15.

For more information on the partnership or the summer internship program, visit http://cancer.nmsu.edu.