University collaborates with Carle for Cancer Community program

By Abigale Svoboda

The University recently established yet another collaboration with Carle Foundation Hospital. Cancer Scholars for Translational and Applied Research, or C*STAR, is a new graduate fellowship program within the Cancer Community at Illinois, which comes just weeks after the announcement of the Carle-Illinois College of Medicine.RB

According to the program’s website, the Cancer Community “provides resources to access cancer-related activities across campus and nucleate new programs and activities to advance cancer research progress.”RB

Graduate students interested in cancer research will be able to collaborate with physicians at Carle to improve and further their research.

Rohit Bhargava, a professor of Bioengineering, spearheaded the establishment of the graduate program.

When he began working at the University almost 10 years ago, barriers between the University and local hospitals made it extremely difficult for students to fully satisfy their research goals, Bhargava said.

While he and other professors have been discussing a graduate program in the cancer community for the past few years, he said it did not come together until recently.

“Over the last six months or so we’ve managed to iron out all the details,” Bhargava said.

He said the student program needed to be developed first.

“Carle and UIUC are providing matching funds for graduate fellowships for work in cancer research,” said Rashid Bashir, head of the Bioengineering department.

The Cancer Community arranged the matching program with Carle so half of the costs are paid by the hospital and the other half are paid with University funds.

Physician release times were also arranged with the hospital, Bhargava said, so physicians will be available every few weeks to work with students during an afternoon and devote time to the students’ research. The Cancer Community has arranged for five years of collaboration but hopes the program continues afterward.

“It isn’t just a student program,” he said. “Otherwise the student would run into the same problem as they had previously: that the student is available and ready, but then there’s nobody to talk to.”

According to C*STAR’s website, long-term goals of the program include building connections between University students and Carle physicians, developing a foundation for tangible outcomes and attracting more high-quality clinician-scientists to Carle and translation-focused faculty to the University. RB

Although incoming students can apply to the program, Bhargava said he believes students who are already enrolled and doing research at the University will be at an advantage.

The Cancer Community is accepting applications for the graduate program until June 1. Up to six students will be accepted and notified by July 1; funding is provided to each student for up to three years.

Bhargava said the application can be found on the program’s website and requires a one page description of the student’s research plans and who they will collaborate with at Carle.

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