Students & Scientists Breast Cancer/ Environment Research Program

Recognizing that cutting edge information on environmental health was not included in high school curricula on Long Island, the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition (GNBCC) founded and created the Students & Scientists Breast Cancer/Environment Research Program in 2005.

After attending a number of breast cancer/environment conferences, reading dozens of books and articles and speaking in depth to researchers, we felt it was critical that young people in the next generation learn about the connection between environment and breast health so that they could begin to protect themselves from toxic exposures and educate their peers and members of their community.

This educational program provides high school students with experience working with world-renowned environmental and breast cancer researchers while they learn sophisticated laboratory procedures in a state-of-the-art lab. During this hands-on experience the students learn that ubiquitous toxic exposures are not only creating havoc in our environment, but are also contributing to chronic diseases, including cancer, learning disabilities and neurological diseases. To date, GNBCC has provided 52 high school internships at 10 different laboratories in the Northeast.

Of particular importance to GNBCC is improving the quality of human health. To have the largest impact, this initiative includes expansion by assisting other coalitions to create a student program. In 2007, GNBCC assisted the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition (HBCAC) through the development of their program which has since sponsored 25 students at laboratories in the Northeast. We are grateful to HBCAC for connecting our students to the BCERC Conferences which enhanced our program.

The Students & Scientists internship program strengthens scientific literacy while nurturing young men’s and women’s interests in environmental health and breast cancer prevention.  Students become the next generation of scientists and protectors of public health and our environment. Many participating students have expressed that our program has changed the direction of their career choices and their lives.

  • Contact laboratories researching environmental links to breast cancer. Arrange for a visit to speak about the details of the internship program to be set up by the researcher. Be clear about your vision for the student experience and explore whether it can be realized at this lab.
  • Reach out to the High School Science Departments in and around your community to find teachers who are interested in recommending students for this opportunity. GNBCC found that students in a school science research program, AP Biology and/or AP Chemistry were the most appropriate candidates. Teachers submit a written recommendation.
  • Speak to school district administration about providing a rider to the district insurance policy to cover the internship period. The “certificate holders” of the rider are the laboratory and your coalition.
  • Have interested students apply by submitting a one page essay by email stating why they want to research environmental links to breast cancer and breast cancer prevention.
  • Set up an interview with the students. Make sure they understand that they need to be part of a health insurance plan or they won’t be accepted by laboratories.
  • Interview prospective students with an interview committee of two or more people using an interview checklist. (See interview checklist pdf)
  • Select students and have them decide within 24 hours to commit to your program.

Have students fill out an application and release forms signed by parents. You may use GNBCC release forms approved by your attorney or have your attorney draft a new one. (See pdf application and release forms in forms section below)

  • If appropriate for the internship, set up housing and a meal plan at a college dormitory local to the lab. In some cases you may want to seek housing in a private home, although GNBCC has abandoned this idea as of 2012 due to liability concerns.
  • To familiarize the students with the laboratory work they will be involved in, email prior laboratory studies to student interns before they begin their internship.
  • Set up an orientation for the students and parents a few weeks prior to their internship. Invite their science teachers and school administration. Provide a laminated “palm card” for each student with laboratory and housing contact information and transportation between the two if appropriate. Parents can sign release forms if they have not already. Once you have alumni, have them help you prepare the new students at the orientation!
  • Stay in touch with the students through periodic emails during their summer internship.
  • When they return, students provide a two-page essay describing their experience and fill out an evaluation form. The essay can be displayed on your website or used for quotes in articles. (See our student evaluation pdf form)
  • Follow up meeting: Arrange a meeting for students to present a powerpoint or verbal presentation of their summer experience to your coalition, community and local legislators.
  • If they are applying to present a poster at a conference after their internship, assist students in preparing an abstract of their laboratory experiment/research.  Once your coalition, their research mentor and the conference advisors approve their abstract, it can be sent off to the conference organizer. If accepted, students will need assistance with the production of their poster.
  • Proofread and edit their poster for grammar and to make sure that the message your coalition wants included is stated.
  • Have poster approved by research mentors
  • Incorporate research mentors’ edits
  • Print poster and package in a cardboard tube for transporting.
  • Have parents sign release form explaining what is expected of students at the conference and releasing your coalition of liability during travel to, from and at the conference. (See Conference Release forms below)
  • Set up transportation and transfers to and from hotel, etc
  • Have students present their posters at their high schools’ classes, science clubs, research groups, etc.
  • Have students present their posters to local legislators.
  • Have students write articles about their conference experience.
  • Submit articles about your students to newspapers, especially if your students win awards.

GNBCC has provided full scholarships to students for our summer internship program which includes housing, meal plan, transportation and lab fees. Providing full, partial or no financial assistance for your program is a decision to be made by the members of your coalition. You may also choose to provide a scholarship for any conferences you and your students attend.