At UAB, undergraduate students with a passion for medicine have the opportunity to receive an honors degree in cancer biology – a degree not found anywhere else in the country.
For undergraduates interested in pursuing a career in medicine or research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, there is an opportunity to obtain an education not found at any other institution in the country: a bachelor’s degree in cancer biology.
Founded in 2020, Cancer Biology is a joint program between UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine and is the first of its kind to be found in the United States. Aiming to provide students with a strong educational and research background that maximizes their chances of achieving their career goals in cancer biology specifically and life sciences in general, the undergraduate biology program at the Cancer at UAB provides students with a broad background in biomedical sciences through courses that support current biomedical demands in academic, private, and government settings. The required research component of the program provides students with early exposure to a cutting-edge research environment when participating in investigator-led programs in multiple research-intensive departments at UAB and O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“UAB’s Cancer Biology undergraduate program is a launching pad for students who want to focus on a career path in cancer education, research, treatment and control,” said said Sadanandan E. Velu, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and co-director of the Undergraduate Program in Cancer Biology. “Graduates of this program are expected to be highly competitive for graduate/vocational schools and be well prepared for a wide range of employment opportunities in the public and private sectors, such as in the fields of medicine, biomedical research , pharmaceutical/biotechnology industry, veterinary science, medical technology, public health policy, optometry and dentistry.
In addition to the required research components of the four-year program and the core study plan and curriculum, Cancer Biology also allows undergraduate students to have a different look at UAB as an institution. , because clinical observation opportunities arise with the very professors who conduct their classes.
With more than 90 students enrolled in the Cancer Biology undergraduate program as of fall 2022, the remarkable interest that UAB co-directors and faculty have seen indicates the need for specialized education for students who have a clearer idea of what they want to pursue professionally. , but who would also benefit from an undergraduate course designed to prepare them for that success.
Want to know more about the Cancer Biology Undergraduate Program at UAB? Register below for the School of Medicine Joint Undergraduate Programs Interest Session and visit the UAB campus.
“What’s really exciting about this undergraduate program is that we’re able to really expose these students to all aspects of biology and cancer together in a program that will guide them down the postgraduate path. desired,” said Braden McFarland, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Cellular, Developmental, and Integrative Biology and co-director of the undergraduate program in Cancer Biology. “Cancer cuts across all medical specialties, and this program explains the fundamentals to students who will then translate them when they enter medical school or pursue research. The fact that this program continues to grow in size is a testament to the interest of UAB students and why an investment in a program like this matters.
Graduate of the first cohort of undergraduate students in cancer biology
In 2022, Hunter Lunceford and Zoë Evans were the first two graduates from the undergraduate cancer biology program. With both students having a particular interest in pursuing careers in medicine and cancer research, their involvement in the program has prepared them for unique successes that will guide their professional interests in the future.
For Evans, the individuality and specificity of the program gave him a better understanding of the links between cancer and biology. It also helped her to receive a highly competitive cancer research internship.
“The great thing about a cancer biology major is that all the classes build on each other and you are often able to gain a deeper understanding of the subject because of this, and you have access to incredible opportunities to pursue research at UAB,” Evans said. “Without being in the field of cancer biology, I don’t think I would be considered for the highly selective research program I am involved in at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital this summer.”
In Lunceford’s case, the program’s insight into what education in a vocational school like medical school would be like was a huge benefit to him and his education, but also to help him reframe some of his goals. postgraduate.
“We have the opportunity to be taught by professors from the Heersink School of Medicine as well as take classes taught by real doctors at UAB Hospital,” Lunceford recalled. “It was great to receive in-depth training in a refreshing way. The courses gave us a taste of how a professional school can be taught and allowed us to be regularly in the hospital environment where we learned a lot of clinical information from an oncologist.. This program is the one I know I was lucky enough to get, as it is not offered anywhere else but at UAB here in Birmingham.
McFarland notes that while many undergraduates in the program have medical aspirations and want a basic knowledge base to boost their applications, many students go into cancer biology because they have personally been impacted by cancer in a loved one. Many students want to have an in-depth understanding of what drives cancer, how research can cure different subtypes, and more.
“I was truly blown away to see so many of our students who have a vested interest in this education due to a personal connection to cancer, and it reminds me why a program like this will truly prepare the next generation of doctors and researchers. fine,” McFarland said. “Our introductory class had 10 students for the first time, and to see it have over 25 students now is something I’m excited about, and I hope the program continues to thrive and grow.”