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The PARTNERS Research Education Program trains NCCU undergraduate students in two thematic research tracks: Basic Cancer Biology and Public Health Disparities. It also facilitates cancer biology research experiences for UNC-CH undergraduate students in laboratories at NCCU for the summer. Dr. Jolly (recently retired), Dr. Romocki and Ms. Cooper recruit and interview candidates for the Public Health fellows program. Dr. Grillo and Dr. Keku recruits and selects the Basic Cancer Biology Fellows at NCCU. Dr. Keku coordinates the recruitment and selection of UNC-CH students. The stronger applicants are interviewed by PIs prior to selection; following selection, PIs discuss with selected fellows their research interests and experience and Dr. Grillo assigns the NCCU Cancer Biology Fellows to research labs at NCCU for the academic year. Dr. Romocki works with Ms. Cooper to develop learning contracts with each Public Health fellow for the summer and the entire academic year. Similarly, the Public Health Fellows’ are selected based on their application materials and interview. Selected fellows are matched to UNC-CH School of Public Health mentors based on their research interest and after the mentors have interviewed all selected fellows. For the summer, all fellows are matched with appropriate labs or cancer prevention research projects based at UNC-CH. Ms. Cooper (UNC-CH) coordinates the Public Health Fellows’ summer experience at UNC-CH, while Dr. Keku directs the Cancer Biology summer program there. Dr. Grillo assists in identifying and assigning UNCCH students in laboratories at NCCU. At summer’s end, the UNC-CH and NCCU track leaders attend oral or poster presentations by all Fellows. During the subsequent academic year, Cancer Biology Fellows either return to their research labs at NCCU or are assigned a new lab by Dr. Grillo. Public Health Fellows continue working on the research projects they were assigned to in the summer. Drs. Romocki and Grillo meet with the students during monthly journal clubs, monitor preparation for and attendance at local and national scientific meetings, advise on professional development issues, and insure Fellows take courses required by the program. Drs. Keku, Grillo, Romocki and Ms. Cooper develop and conduct professional development and summer research readiness workshops during the academic year for all fellows.

Cancer Disparity

Deficit of racial and ethnic minorities in Cancer – Biology and Public Health research.


African Americans carry the highest cancer burden of any racial or ethnic group in the United States. The Research Education Core of this U54 proposal will provide research experiences and professional development activities in support of our long-term goal: the development of a workforce devoted to eliminating disparities in cancer prevalence, screening, diagnosis, and treatment. The Partners Cancer Research Education program, developed as a collaboration between the UNC-Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (UNC-LCCC), the UNC-CH Gillings School of Global Public Health, and North Carolina Central University (NCCU), is the vehicle for reaching this goal. Aim 1 is to provide NCCU undergraduates (Partners Fellows) with an intensive introduction to either basic cancer laboratory research or to public health cancer prevention research through academic year and summer research experiences. Aim 2 is to facilitate Fellows’ development of professional skills and an appreciation of the interdisciplinary nature of cancer research. This aim will be accomplished through two complimentary sub-aims: (a) Assist Fellows in developing the professional skills necessary to gain admission to competitive graduate and
professional schools in the biomedical sciences or in public health and to successfully complete those programs; (b) Provide Fellows an interdisciplinary educational experience to build a basic understanding of research in public health, social, behavioral and biomedical sciences. While Aims 1 and 2 concentrate on NCCU students, Aim 3 will facilitate summer cancer research experiences and professional development for UNC-CH students in laboratories at NCCU. The goal of Aim 3 is to assure that there are health disparity student research experiences and inter-institutional training for both NCCU and UNC-CH
undergraduate students.

Co-Principal Investigators

Temitope Keku, MSPH, PhD
Wendy Heck-Grillo, PhD
LaHoma Romocki, PhD
Trinnette Cooper, MPH
UNC Lineberger
Temitope Keku, PhD
UNC Lineberger