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TOP Program opens doors for young researchers-to-be

laboratory research

Jake Leflein

“I’ve never doubted for a minute that I want to go into medicine,” says Jake Leflein, who is finishing up his freshman year in the U-M pre-med program. Jake’s main goal is a clinical career as a practicing physician, but three years of laboratory internship experience at the U-M Medical School have opened the door to possibly combining his clinical care career with laboratory research.

Jake has enjoyed his hands-on experience in the laboratory of Diane Simeone, M.D., so much that he chose U-M to attend in order to continue working in Dr. Simeone’s lab. She directs the U-M Translational Oncology Program, or TOP, which seeks to take laboratory discoveries and translate them into practical cancer treatments – which has placed Jake in the thick of cutting-edge research.

Jake’s advice to anyone interested in research:

  • The younger you start, the more opportunities you’ll have to prove yourself and acquire recommendations you can use for college and job applications.
  • There’s value in demonstrating continuity via an internship – it proves you can commit and follow through.
  • Learning to be part of a team on big projects and over an extended period of time is invaluable.
  • Research takes a long time, so starting early means you’re more likely to see the fruits of your labor.

Jake’s first project involved research into the novel oncogene ataxia-telangiectasia group D complementing (ATDC), possibly the most important gene to be implicated for pancreatic cancer. A paper published on the research lists Jake as a co-author. Several of his other projects have papers awaiting publication, so Jake’s resume is likely to list other co-authorships, multiple evidence of his years in the lab.

Jake says other students should know that TOP is a great place to learn about science if you have good grades and are passionate about science.

“It’s an amazing time to get into research. Progress has been slow in the past, but that’s changed. We are making major discoveries, major progress. It’s an exciting time to get started in the research world,” he says.

Scientists and other researchers at TOP would like to share their enthusiasm about cancer resarch with the public through a hands-on event ‘One Day Closer to a Cure’ where participants can see what a day of cancer research looks like.

  • Saturday, June 7
  • 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • University of Michigan’s North Campus Research Complex, Building 520
  • $10 per person or $7.50 each for families of four or more.

The program is geared toward anyone who is curious about science, including high school students, teachers and families. Advance registrants get lunch and a t-shirt. All the TOP scientists will be on hand for talks, tours and interactive learning sessions, and to answer questions about what it takes to become a cancer researcher.

Take the next step:


University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan for cancer patient care. Seventeen multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.