NCI-Frederick takes very seriously its role as a major "corporate citizen" in its small, semi-rural hometown of Frederick, Maryland, located about 50 miles north of Washington, DC. In addition to traditional graduate and postdoctoral positions, the NCI-Frederick campus offers an array of top-quality science education and outreach programs that are tailored for students and residents who live in neighboring communities of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The longest-running program is the Werner H. Kirsten Student Intern Program (SIP), which is designed to expose local high school seniors to research and administrative management in a health care environment. SIP was launched in 1989 by Dr. Werner Kirsten, who was associate director of NCI-Frederick from 1989-1992. "There weren't a lot of opportunities here for the local school children in the public school system," recalls Barbara Birnman, who administers SIP as part of NCI-Frederick's Office of Scientific Operations.
SIP began with only a handful of students during the first year of its summer program, but has expanded and evolved to teach and inspire 545 high schoolers since then, including the 52 pupils currently enrolled in the program. The SIP scientific interns arrive at NCI-Frederick early in the summer before their senior year of high school. They work 9 weeks during the summer for a stipend of about $3,400. The program is mentor-driven, with more than 40 volunteer mentors among the NCI lab scientists.
"Summer is a training period and the students work not only with the mentor but with other people in the labs, as well, to learn how to use the equipment and about procedures, lab safety, and other important research techniques or research issues," Ms. Birnman explains. "When the school year starts, each intern is given a project that is usually a subset of what the mentor's lab is working on." The SIP students commit to at least 3 hours a day in the lab during the school week, time that's unpaid but earns them academic credit from their high schools.
In addition to the SIP program, NCI-Frederick also hosts a Summer Student Seminar Series that allows summer interns and other students to meet one another and hear scientists talk about the broad range of research being carried out on the Frederick campus. At the end of the summer, they're invited to participate in a Summer Student Poster Day.
NCI-Frederick's Elementary Outreach Program grew out of the efforts of an NCI scientist in the early 1990s who had children in a local elementary school and was giving science lessons to his children's classes. "It was so popular that other teachers in the school wanted him to teach science lessons in their classes," notes Julie Hartman, who works in the Office of Scientific Operations. "We now have teams for each grade level who go to four or five Frederick County elementary schools throughout the school year," providing 60-minute, hands-on science lessons and demonstrations.
Plans for new educational programs are well underway at NCI-Frederick. These include establishing an undergraduate intern program, offering teaching opportunities for NCI graduate and postdoctoral fellows at nearby Hood College, and partnering with several local universities to offer extensive course offerings at higher education facilities.