National Cancer Institute
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PS-ON Education and Outreach Activities


Each of the Physical Science-Oncology Centers (PSOCs) contain an education and outreach unit that is responsible for the coordination of the education, training, career development, and scientific outreach activities that support and promote Center organizing frameworks. The following activities and efforts are being organized and promoted at each of the various PSOCs.

Columbia University
Physical Sciences-Oncology Center

The Education and Outreach Core’s efforts have focused on providing multidisciplinary education targeted to the strengths and interests of quantitative scientists, while presenting challenges that the field of cancer biology faces today. With the aim of creating new venues to promote collaboration between cancer researchers, physicists, and mathematicians, the Center organizes yearly workshops and symposia (For more Information). The Center also hosts a series of informal talks on applied topology at Columbia University called The New York Applied Topology Group (For more Information). This year, PIs from the Columbia PSOC center will also participate in the organization of  the CNIO Frontiers meeting on Heterogeneity and evolution in cancer (Details here) and in the 2019 Prospects in Theoretical Physics (PiTP) summer program (Details here). The Center also offers graduate program classes on Deep Sequencing and on Topological Data Analysis for Genomics and Applications to Cancer, and summer intensive classes (For Information).

Cornell University
Physical Sciences-Oncology Center

We connect trainees with cancer patients and survivors on an on-going basis through a collaboration with the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. The objectives of this collaboration are to provide trainees with: 1) the communication skills needed to present their research in lay language, 2) an opportunity to see the human dimensions of cancer, and 3) an understanding that researcher-patient partnerships are mutually beneficial. Training experiences include classroom instruction that emphasizes science communication, multiple opportunities to present cancer research to the local community, and involvement in patient support activities at the Cancer Resource Center. By teaching - and learning from - cancer patients, trainees gain a unique perspective on cancer that complements their more traditional research training. Community members have the opportunity to see cancer research first-hand, gaining an appreciation of its complexities, and insight into the future of cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. The partnership began with a focus on doctoral students and post-doctoral trainees in the College of Veterinary Medicine and in the Nancy E. And Peter C. Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, but has expanded to include students at all levels of study from throughout Cornell. Recent participants have included undergraduate and masters students from various disciplines including engineering, social sciences, the humanities, and health administration. The website for this partnership highlights the varied activities that are available.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Physical Sciences-Oncology Center

A key element of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute-PSOC is to facilitate integrative science through appropriate education and outreach and providing career building opportunities, since our PSOC involves the synergistic collaboration of clinicians, experimentalists, and physical scientists, with a diverse disciplinary background. Our overarching goal is to expose scientists and students to a multidisciplinary environment, foster collaborative networks, and ensure career building opportunities to many members. We develop and implement several activities, including organizing seminars and lab meetings with a myriad of guest speakers from diverse backgrounds. We also run a joint journal club meeting with several different labs around the Longwood Medical Area and aid in the organization of an institute wide seminar series. We also expect attendance of members at conferences and presentation of their work and we encourage students particularly to attend symposia. These events serve to expose our members and the scientific community to the accomplishments of the DFCI-PSOC and to foster collaborations for future fruitful projects and publications. Major accomplishments of the DFCI-PSOC are joint publications, grant proposals and DFCI-PSOC funded pilot projects, which garner lot of interest and produce relevant publications. The DFCI-PSOC is also involved in co-sponsoring and organizing several regional and national conferences/symposia such as the Gordon Research Conference in February 2019 where members will present their work and chair sessions. All of these activities, additionally to DFCI-PSOC leading members presenting at a multitude of national conferences, are designed for career-building of developing scientists and presenting the scientific results of the DFCI-PSOC.

H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute
Physical Sciences-Oncology Center

A key element of the Moffitt-PSOC is to facilitate integrative science through appropriate education and outreach, since our PSOC involves the synergistic collaboration of clinicians, experimentalists, physical scientists, and patient advocates. Our overarching goal is to develop a framework to cross-train physical and clinical oncologists to facilitate translation of ecological and evolutionary principles into clinically testable treatment strategies by using specific mechanistic modeling. We develop and implement focused activities, including annual interdisciplinary workshops to train experimental, clinical and quantitative scientists cross-consortium to create a seamless interface between biological experimentation, quantitative mechanistic modeling and clinical trials. Hands-on working groups facilitate the interaction of scientists from theoretical, experimental, and clinical backgrounds to discuss and jointly develop new mechanistic models to answer key relevant cancer questions. These groups provide ample opportunities for networking and interdisciplinary discussions with current and future leaders in the field. Major deliverables are joint publications, grant proposals and a $50K Moffitt-funded pilot project for the winning team each year. To educate a new generation of scientists at the interface of tumor biology, quantitative modeling and cancer treatment, we provide project-focused internship programs for high school and college students. To expand our reach to the scientific and general public communities we share model frameworks and experimental data, and educate patients and patient advocates on quantitative sciences in clinical oncology. Patient advocacy plays a central role in our PSOC. Patient advocates participate in and contribute to work in progress presentations, research seminars, and scientific retreats, and lobby on behalf of our PSOC and the PSON in general for research support.

Johns Hopkins University
Physical Sciences-Oncology Center

The PSOC at JHU uses a variety of activities and strategies to support our education and outreach initiatives. The center hosts two major events. The first is the annual symposium, co-hosted with the Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT). This symposium is a platform for faculty, students, and guest speakers to showcase the most recent and relevant research and share ideas, information, techniques, and methods. The other event is the summer seminar series. This provides further opportunities for researchers to interact, share knowledge, and collaborate. Training is an important aspect to prepare the next generation of researchers. We not only train current students and postdocs, but we also train students outside PS-OC research labs when possible. The center hosted a high school intern from the Baltimore area and an undergraduate intern from Arizona State University. It has also provided tours of the research labs to the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. The PS-OC at JHU utilizes leverages the internet and print publications to highlight important work, opportunities, and education content. Articles are posted on the website and social media. They also appear in the annual Nano-Bio Report produced by INBT. Additionally, the center publishes a newsletter for PS-OC members. We also collaborate with other media outlets when possible. Andrew Ewald and his research have been featured in Johns Hopkins Magazine and has a video explaining his breast cancer research. Denis Wirtz’s and his former PhD student, Hasini Jayatilaka’s, research on metastasis signaling pathways was also featured. This media coverage successfully garnered worldwide coverage in over 70 media outlets. Past outreach activities included the center’s investigating PI, Denis Wirtz, advocating for cancer research on Capitol Hill. He met with Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen’s staff, Delaware U.S Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester’s staff, and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a 10-year breast cancer survivor, from Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Physical Sciences-Oncology Center

Education and Outreach activities in the MIT/Mayo PSOC occur at a variety of levels. At the undergraduate level, we focus on cross-disciplinary training of undergraduates in each of the labs associated with our center, such that students get exposed to principles of physical science, engineering, and molecular biology within the context of an aspect of one of the projects in our center. At the graduate and post-doctoral level, we focus on inter-lab cross-disciplinary training, with students from each lab within the center traveling to other labs to improve their knowledge of different techniques and perspectives, with the goal of developing trainees that are fluent in physical sciences, engineering, and oncology. Finally, at all levels, including trainees, PIs, and staff, we aim to inform as to the role of the blood-brain barrier in limiting drug distribution and therefore drug efficacy in brain tumors, while also providing information on tumor heterogeneity and adaptive response to therapy. To this end, we have hosted numerous speakers at each institution, and organized 2 symposia thus far, including a mini-symposium on the role of the BBB in GBM therapy, and a jointly organized 2-day PSOC/SPORE workshop on brain tumors. We are in the process of co-organizing (with the University of Minnesota PSOC) the next Brain Tumor Symposium to be held in Minneapolis in May. Finally, several investigators from our PSOC have presented talks at a range of conferences and symposia, including multiple presentations at the Anticancer Drug Discovery and Development Conference at the recent Society for NeuroOncology meeting.

Houston Methodist Research Institute
Physical Sciences-Oncology Center

The Education and Outreach Unit (EOU) of the Center for Immunotherapeutic Transport Oncophysics (CITO) fosters multidisciplinary research, education, and outreach activities among the CITO members, Physical Sciences-Oncology Network (PS-ON), and beyond. The program aims to engage and develop high-caliber students and scientists in physical sciences oncology, and to provide resources and opportunities for innovative collaboration that support the overarching goals of the center. Our scientific symposia encourage open participation and discussion on how physical sciences affects cancer immunotherapy with our team of scientists, clinicians, patient advocates, and trainees. Furthermore, the EOU is implemented with the guidance from our patient advocates who serve as ambassadors for patient-centered care and education about our outreach initiatives. Part of the Community Engagement Program is aimed at educating students in grades K-12 and exposing them early to the models, concepts, and applications of mass transport at our annual Science Day. CITO emphasizes the need to support current and future generations of clinicians and scientists in the physical sciences. The Scientist Exchange and the Trainee Research Programs catalyze fast-track, interactive laboratory or clinical experience under a host investigator (within the CITO or PS-ON) with the goal of leveraging new collaboration or funding opportunities. Overall, the EOU is dedicated to training the next generation of physical scientists and raising awareness in the general public, scientific, and patient communities about cancer immunotherapy breakthroughs. The CITO has a dedicated website that disseminates information on the projects and core, upcoming events, patient advocacy, data sharing, and more. For details about CITO and potential collaboration, please visit our website at

University of Minnesota
Physical Sciences-Oncology Center

As model complexity increases to moderate levels (~5-10 parameters), we have found that the models are surprisingly difficult to understand intuitively. We find that for moderately complex models, our intuitive reasoning is often incorrect, a humbling discovery. Part of the difficulty of model deconstruction is that the computer is essentially mute after a simulation run, and does not lend direct insight into the process.

If the computer had human-like intelligence, then we could engage in discussion with it regarding the essential features of the model. Since such computers are not on the immediate horizon, we have started to explore programming humans to act as the agents in the simulation. Such programming can be physically demanding, and may involve violent collisions as dictated by the level of thermal forces and diffusion. Therefore, our initial exploration involves collaboration with a professional dance company, Black Label Movement – directed by Carl Flink. Flink’s dancers, whom he refers to as “movers”, are now highly trained in diffusion reaction, self-assembly, and forces after five years of collaboration with Dr. Odde in a collaboration we call the “Moving Cell” project. These movers rapidly assimilate model rules, and carry out human-scale simulations over a few minutes, a process we call “bodystorming”, where bodies and minds work together to rapidly construct and deconstruct models.  Our bodystorming engages Center researchers, clinicians, patients, caregivers and we are working with the UMN PSOC patient advocate Carole Baas to develop a new bodystorming experience focused on the experience of cancer survivors. The interactions facilitated by bodystorming use human movement as a facilitator to break down disciplinary language barriers between cancer researchers, patients, clinicians, and caregivers enabling substantive new discourse that accelerates the science.

Northwestern University
Physical Sciences-Oncology Center

The Northwestern University (NU) PS-OC has been sponsoring its own undergraduate summer research program since its inception in 2015 and for the prior five years as well, b/c our Center was also part of the Phase I Network. The summer program has two arms, one for students from NU and other institutions that are part of the NU PS-OC, and another for minority students from outside institutions. Typically, 5-7 undergraduates participate annually. In addition to the research component, participants write research proposals and attend weekly tumor biology seminars and a PS-OC-sponsored summer workshop. Since the NCI inaugurated its own summer program, our students have attended the NCI undergraduate conference in Bethesda and have also participated in the mini-Dream challenge organized by Sage Bionetworks. Our annual Summer Workshop on Cancer Fundamentals is another event that we have carried over from our Phase I Center. We hold this half-day workshop on NU’s Evanston campus and tailor it to students, trainees, and faculty on this campus who seek an introduction to basic principles of cancer biology and clinical oncology. Presentations are typically given by cancer researchers and cancer clinicians associated with NU’s Feinberg School of Medicine; they center on a theme that changes annually. The presentations are recorded, and the videos are posted on the PS-OC website. Because this is the only education event of its type on the Evanston campus, the workshop has proven very popular. Our Center typically holds one large symposium annually that attracts faculty and trainees from a number of Chicago-area institutions. In terms of outreach, our Center has sponsored public forums featuring roundtable discussions by clinicians associated with our center as well as talks by authors of popular books on cancer. Dr. Theodora Ross, author of “A Cancer in the Family,” will be giving talks on both the Evanston and downtown campuses in April, 2019.

University of Pennsylvania
Physical Sciences-Oncology Center

To educate the next generation of cancer researchers in the physics of cancer, PSOC@Penn runs a Monday Noon seminar series (2-3 times per month). Lectures are widely advertised throughout the entire Penn campus and frequently draw non-Center faculty & students from Physics, Math, Engineering, Medicine, and the Vet School. Fall & Spring Lectures are by distinguished external Speakers. Before and after their lectures, invited speakers meet with investigators, postdocs, and graduate students for scientific discussion. Speaker ‘desserts’ with postdocs and students immediately after the talk provide 1 hour of informal interaction. Summer Talks are given by Center’s postdocs and graduate students which provides feedback on the work from peers and from more senior investigators. Information dissemination and education is conducted through Penn Canvas –the academic courseware program to share data, announcements of events & seminars etc. as well as through the center’s web site – PSOC@Penn efforts at major Scientific Meetings have served as both Outreach and ’Inreach’. Most recently, PSOC@Penn organized and ran a PSON-Networking Symposium & Reception at the BMES meeting 2018 in Atlanta. Four other PSOP/PSOCs presented and participated, agreeing to repeat in 2019 at the Philadelphia Meeting. In Spring 2018, PSOC@Penn Public symposium included external and internal speakers and a Poster session for all trainees. Additionally, the 2017 GRC Physics of Cancer Conference (organized by PSOC@Penn) will repeat in 2019, and the PSOC@Penn has set aside funds to support any PI plus 1-2 students/fellows per group who present PSOC-related work. This will hopefully be a major investment in the broader networking of trainees. Undergraduate Students from Penn and other Universities (Rice, NYU … U. Puerto Rico) participate in summer research programs. This includes but is not limited to undergraduate students from the CSBC-PSON/NCI program. Students have generally worked in teams of 2-3 with more senior mentors and have been sufficiently productive to be co-authors on both published and submitted papers. The center identified a patient advocate, Maria Roberts, President & Chief Executive Officer of MFR Consultants, Inc. She presented at the PSOC@Penn Public symposium in spring 2018 and has since interacted with some Ctr members, with more progress in patient advocacy expected in the near future.