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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

DCEG Journal and Science Clubs – Creating a Summer Intern Community

This summer, DCEG fellows coordinated three clubs to provide knowledge and skills development for the 2016 DCEG summer interns. Ariunaa Bayanjargal, postbaccalaureate fellow in the Laboratory of Translational Genomics (LTG), ran “Summer Club 001” at the DCEG Advanced Technology a Center for summer interns and other postbaccalaureate fellows. Ludmila Prokunina-Olsson, Ph.D., senior investigator, LTG, created the club to cover topics such as genetic variation, genome-wide association studies, and novel lab tools—topics that are important for interns working in such a specialized lab. For each topic covered in the club, participants were assigned a scientific paper in a complementary topic to read and dissect. Presenters included other LTG fellows, and Irene Collins, Ph.D., LTG biologist and lab manager, who lectured on cell culture.

“You did a great job of leading and balancing your knowledge with group discussion…you successfully created a space where most participants felt comfortable sharing their questions and opinions.”

DCEG fellows also organized two journal clubs at the NCI Shady Grove campus. The first, titled “Bridging the gap between mass media and health research: A cancer epidemiologist’s perspective,” was led by postdoctoral fellows Hannah Oh, Sc.D., and Jessica Petrick, Ph.D., of the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB). The objective was to cover critical analysis of epidemiologic methods in cancer research. To achieve this, participants reviewed journal articles and compared them with the messages conveyed about them via mass media. Using examples drawn from nutritional and hormonal cancer epidemiology research, discussions focused on exposure assessment, measurement error, study heterogeneity, confounding, and interaction.

“Great experience, would definitely do it again. Club leaders are very knowledgeable, prepared and eloquent.”

The second journal club, “Through the lens of an epidemiologist: Understanding cancer, its determinants, treatment, and prevention,” exposed participating interns to epidemiology’s contributions to the prevention and treatment of cancer. Using examples from a variety of cancer epidemiology publications, journal club leaders Tracy Layne, Ph.D., M.P.H., postdoctoral fellow in MEB, and Lydia Louis, M.P.H., predoctoral fellow in the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, helped interns explore how cancer risk factors are studied. They discussed advantages and disadvantages of various study designs relative to research hypotheses. Examples included research on diet, genetic regulation, environmental exposures, infectious agents, and health behaviors.

“Journal clubs give us an opportunity to help interns learn important skills in critical thinking and presentation that they will use throughout their careers, no matter what paths they choose,” commented Jackie Lavigne, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the DCEG Office of Education. “In turn, our fellows gain experience in mentoring, which becomes even more important as they progress in their respective fields.”