Colorado Students Partner with Medical College on Cancer Research

Students at Dawson School are using algorithms they developed themselves in an attempt to find patterns in cancer data provided by the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM).

Dawson is the only secondary school in the United States participating in the project from BCM's Lichtarge Lab which aims to analyze "decades of cancer research to detect patterns that promote better comprehension of cancer processes and treatments," according to a news release.

Dubbed the Lichtarge Cancer Collaborative Program (LCCP), the project is run by Graduate Student Stephen Wilson. Wilson, who called the LCCP "an effort to offer motivation and experience to advanced high-school students who are capable of contributing to the field of cancer discovery and, perhaps just as important, preparing for their future" in a prepared statement, reached out to his former teacher, Erik Nickerson, who currently teaches math and physics and coaches the robotics team at Dawson. Nickerson is now overseeing the Dawson students involved in the project as well.

"Of course, we aren't genome specialists, but it is entirely possible that these young people, coming at the challenge with a naïve but analytical and unbiased perspective, will spot something that others missed," said Nickerson in a news release.

The students, from Dawson's robotics team, are "writing code that is similar to the artificial intelligence commonly required in robotics, video games and e-commerce informatics, all industries that are in high-demand," added Nickerson.

Launched in the fall, the students' work on LCCP takes place after school during their robotics meetings and in their free time. Wilson meets with the team via Skype from time to time to check on progress, suggest new directions and offer encouragement.

"This is a perfect example of how Dawson's vision — that our students achieve their potential, savor life, and meet the world's challenges — is enacted at our school every day," said George P. Moore, head of school at Dawson, in a prepared statement "This project is problem-solving with a real-world application, and it is a fantastic opportunity for our talented students. I have every expectation that they will contribute to this project in a clear and meaningful way."

"The Lichtarge Lab is excited to have Dawson students' fresh perspective, insights, and energy applied to this massive need," added Wilson. "Furthermore, as specialists in the bioinformatics field, we are helping to nudge the students' efforts into areas of research that have not been fully explored and hold promise for cancer patients. They are joining a worldwide force to try and make strides in understanding the intricacies of cancer."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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