Partnership trainees embrace opportunity for hands-on experience and opt for extended time in FNL laboratories 

Undergraduate and graduate students from academic institutions that partner with the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research gained laboratory experience through the Partnership Trainee Program 2022 summer session, which this year added the Morehouse School of Medicine and the program’s first medical student trainee.  

“By welcoming our first medical student, we could offer a unique training opportunity to introduce a new skill like programming to an aspiring researcher-physician,” said Maggie Scully, Ph.D., who manages the Partnership Trainee Program. “It emphasizes how FNL is unique and how our applied, mission-driven work supports biomedical sciences. It’s a privilege to see how our partnerships evolve.” 

Since the training program launched in 2019, it has served 78 students across FNL’s academic partners. The 2022 summer cohort included students from Morehouse School of Medicine and Hood College, the University of Maryland, Columbia University and Georgetown and Butler universities.   

Screenshot of a PowerPoint slide titled "Lessons Learned"
Screenshot taken from a student trainee's virtual presentation recapping what they did and learned through the program.

Morehouse School of Medicine  

Four students—one medical and three masters-degree level — hailed from Morehouse. Three of the trainees delved into data science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning research with Cancer Data Science Initiatives mentors, while another investigated CDK2 inhibition with the Molecular Pharmacology Program. The FNL and Morehouse School of Medicine signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2021, enabling student training opportunities and other avenues for future research partnerships.  

“I was so excited to see our students participating in groundbreaking research during their FNL summer experiences —the convergence of biomedical research and data science and emergence of CAR T therapy— all of which are revolutionizing cancer care,” said James Lillard, Ph.D., senior associate dean for Research, Innovation and Commercialization at Morehouse School of Medicine. 

Hood College 

Two Hood students participated in the training. Hood is one of FNL’s local and long-standing academic partners. Hood College and FNL signed a MOU in 2018 and collaborate in a number of ways, including a co-hosted symposium series. In 2022, one student worked in the FNL’s Vaccine Clinical Materials Program, getting hands-on experience conducting microbiological studies, while the other trained in the Molecular Pharmacology Program, running biostatistical analyses on factors that affect lung cancer survival.  

Summer experience  

In addition to one-on-one mentoring and a chance to conduct their own research projects, the students participated in other activities at FNL, including a clinical trials seminar series hosted by the Clinical Monitoring Research Program, which exposed the trainees to the fundamentals of clinical trials—critical knowledge for any cancer researcher.  

“We’re here to support your careers,” FNL Director and Leidos Biomedical Research President, Ethan Dmitrovsky, M.D., told the students. “Frederick National Laboratory is a national resource, and we care deeply about serving the interests of the extramural cancer science community, and perhaps the best way to do that is through student exchanges.” 

Dr. Dmitrovsky is a student mentor himself. His laboratory, the Molecular Pharmacology Program, hosts trainees from Hood and Morehouse.  

At the FNL and beyond 

While the students completed their official training at the end of the summer, six of the seven remain at FNL and have achieved external recognition for their work. Gerald Jones Jr., a medical student at Morehouse, was featured as a National HUBZone Council’s “Young Disruptor.”  Daryllynn Nelson, also from Morehouse, received funding from the National Institutes of Health’s Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Consortium to Advance Health Equity and Researcher Diversity (AIM-AHEAD). She said her FNL training experience gave her the confidence to apply for the funding.