Dr. Brian Keith continues to teach Cancer Cell Biology (BIOL 407), which has been offered annually through the Biology Department since 2002. It is a seminar course for juniors and seniors with strong backgrounds in cell biology and genetics. In keeping with the emphasis on the experimental basis of cancer research, students are required to analyze and formally discuss selected primary research papers that have had a significant impact on cancer biology. In addition, the students write Nature-style News & Views articles on current primary cancer research papers. Dr. Brian Keith regularly receives outstanding course evaluations for his work in BIOL 407, with comments such as “Brian is, without a doubt, the best professor I have had during my 4 years at Penn.” Notably, Penn’s College of Liberal and Professional Studies has also incorporated a version of BIOL 407 into its regular post-baccalaureate Biology curriculum for both semesters.
In addition, Dr. Keith co-directs BIOL 221 (Molecular Biology and Genetics) with Dr. Greg Guild (Chair, Department of Biology). Their direction has undoubtedly further improved this challenging core course and, thus, undergraduate education at Penn in general. Finally, other AFCRI faculty members that contribute to undergraduate education at Penn include Dr. Lewis Chodosh, who provided four lectures for BIOL 015 (Biology of Human Disease). This course for non-Biology majors is directed by Dr. Eric Weinberg, and Dr. Chodosh consistently receives excellent comments and review scores from the students. Outside of the classroom, AFCRI faculty provide several opportunities for Undergraduates to obtain what is often their first experiences in a laboratory.
Undergraduate Research in AFCRI Laboratories
Dr. Keith continues to work with Drs. Harriet Joseph and Wallace Genser in Penn’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) to improve communications with, and advising for, qualified undergraduates interested in working with AFCRI faculty. The primary goal is to assist talented first- and second-year students in finding a suitable laboratory in which to pursue research for several semesters (and/or summers). For example, the highly competitive University Scholars Program requires admitted students to engage in meaningful research beginning in their freshman and sophomore years. University Scholars are selected and advised by a faculty Council, and receive stipends to support summer research at Penn. These Scholars represent the top 5% of matriculating Penn students, and several graduating members have received Marshall or Rhodes scholarships. Furthermore, Dr. Keith has served on the University Scholars Council, where his primary role has been to advise students interested in biomedical research. In a related initiative, CURF carefully selects students for the prestigious Provost’s Undergraduate Research Mentoring (PURM) program, which provides a significant stipend to students throughout multiple disciplines. Drs. Harriet Joseph, Wallace Genser and Brian Keith are working to develop additional mechanisms to place PURM and other selected students in AFCRI labs and elsewhere in the PSOM.
Finally, as part of Penn’s initiative to increase enrollment of underrepresented minorities in Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS), AFCRI members have participated actively in the Summer Undergraduate Internship Program (SUIP), directed by Dr. Arnaldo Diaz Vazquez. Many of these students hosted by AFCRI Faculty go on to apply to Penn to pursue their graduate degrees, as exemplified by the four diversity trainees that matriculated into the CB program of CAMB for the 2015-2016 academic year. Thus, the participation of AFCRI faculty members in the SUIP program has been a remarkable success and will continue to foster increased diversity of graduate education in Cancer Biology at Penn.