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Promise Program Overview Basic Content

A group of 23 people pose around the Nittany Lion statue in the Penn State College of Medicine courtyard.
Summer 2023 participants from the PROMISE program.

PROMISE (Penn State Research training in Oncology and Medicine to Inspire Student Engagement) is a holistic experience to inspire the next generation of cancer researchers and oncologists. Funded by the National Cancer Institute, PROMISE will provide authentic, team research experiences into cancer prevention and treatment along with workshops to support durable careers in oncology.

Experience the interdisciplinary nature of cancer research in the 21st century by belonging to oncology teams of basic, clinical and population science researchers.


Cancer research at Penn State integrates many STEM disciplines. Each potential PROMISE participant possesses unique talents and skills that can contribute to and enhance the cancer research community. We encourage applicants from a variety of disciplines, both early career scientists (undergraduates) and clinicians (medical students). Students from groups underrepresented in the biomedical workforce are encouraged to apply.

  • Must be U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • College undergraduates who have completed two or three years (e.g., rising juniors or seniors) in a STEM major (including engineering, computer science, statistics and biological sciences).
  • Medical students from an accredited US medical school between the first and second years.
  • Prior PROMISE participants are eligible to apply for a second year (will be evaluated competitively with other applicants).

To Apply

Use the button below to go to the application website or click here to view the application instructions and key dates.

Apply now


  • Contribute to advancing cancer health outcomes through collaborative research.
  • "Research for Life" training focus: learn how lives can be saved through effective cancer prevention and cancer treatment.
  • Experience the language, techniques, strategies and concepts used every day by cancer researchers.
  • Develop networks and professional skills to support your future career.

Program Highlights

  • Participants will be full time members of an interdisciplinary cancer research team and learn first-hand how research discoveries are being translated into clinical or societal practice.
  • Program mentors include PhD, MD and MD/PhD faculty with active research grants or clinical trials, and a strong history of mentorship.
  • "Cancer in Real Life" events with survivors, patients and humanities faculty reinforce why we do research: to positively impact the lives of individuals.
  • Workshops focused on professional and personal skills needed for sustained research careers.
  • Capstone Research Symposium and Mid-Atlantic Trainee Retreat provide multiple opportunities to develop oral presentation skills and create a career network.
  • Limited clinical shadowing opportunities are available (optional).

Key Dates

  • November 15, 2023: Applications open for Summer 2024
  • January 25, 2024: Applications close for Summer 2024
  • May 28, 2024: Start of experience and orientation
  • August 2, 2024: End of experience

Notes: Start/end dates for medical students are flexible to accommodate curriculum differences. The PROMISE program runs for 10 weeks; a minimum of 8 weeks (full time) commitment is required.

Application Instructions

You will need: your undergraduate college transcript; information from your resume or curriculum vitae; a personal statement; and names/email addresses of two references who will provide letters of support. We will contact the references directly. If you are a prior PROMISE participant, one of the references must be your previous PROMISE mentor.

  • Your personal statement is one of the most important components of the application. This must describe why you are interested in the PROMISE program and why you are motivated to explore pursuing an oncology or cancer research career.
  • In the “Achievements” section, list your research experience; authorship on publications; conference presentations (oral or poster); and any honors/awards you have received.

Medical students: on the application, “College One” is the institution where you are currently enrolled in medical school; “College Two” is your undergraduate institution. For students attending a pass/fail medical school, please enter 0 as your GPA; reviewers will understand this entry to mean pass/fail.

Student Participant Selection

The program will accept up to 20 students (undergraduate and medical).

Participants will be selected based on demonstrated interest in the program, scholarship, research experience and reference letters. Personal statements are required and are a critical part of the selection materials. Applicants must describe their motivation for an oncology career or interest in cancer research.

Financial Support

This is a paid summer experience. The participant will receive $6,000 for the full 10-week experience.


Participants can live on campus in our short-term housing facilities at an affordable rate. A need-based summer housing allowance is available for qualified participants. See more information about our housing facilities.

Training Environment

Penn State Cancer Institute is a center for cancer research, career enhancement and clinical care within central Pennsylvania.

The College of Medicine campus in Hershey, Pa., is an ideal and stimulating environment, due to the presence of faculty mentors, near-peers and peers (graduate and post-graduate trainees) from basic, population and clinical sciences at a single location.


The PROMISE program is led by Kristin Eckert, PhD, and Gail Matters, MS, PhD.

Dr. Eckert is Associate Director of Cancer Research Training and Education at Penn State Cancer Institute and a Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Dr. Matters is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Medicine.

Advisory Committee Members

Sinisa Dovat, MD, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics and Director, Developmental Therapeutics Program in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Bernadatte Gilbert, MD, Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid, Penn State College of Medicine

Raymond Hohl, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Director, Penn State Cancer Institute (Ex officio member)

Monika Joshi, MD, Professor of Medicine and Medical Director, Penn State Cancer Institute Clinical Trials Office

Eugene Lengerich, VDM, MS, Professor of Public Health Sciences and Associate Director for Health Disparities and Engagement, Penn State Cancer Institute

Shannon Nowotarski, PhD, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Penn State Berks

Lisa Shantz, PhD, Associate Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology and Associate Director, Woodward Center for Excellence in Health Sciences Education

Gail Thomas, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Co-Director, Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute TL1 Translational Research Training Program.

Contact the Program

For questions, please contact the PROMISE team at