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Group of students in ENCOURAGE program looking at laptop

The ENCOURAGE-Diversity Program (Encouraging Cancer & Oncology Undergraduate Research Growth and Engagement) at Moffitt Cancer Center is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and aims to train underrepresented minority undergraduate students in various fields related to cancer research. Students will train in the labs of world-renowned cancer research experts for one year starting in the summer. In addition to laboratory training, students may also attend seminars, meetings, workshops and various other career development activities during their time at Moffitt.

Program Requirements:

Students accepted to the ENCOURAGE-Diversity Program will train full-time during the summer. Due to this commitment, summer employment and/or enrollment in classes is strongly discouraged. ENCOURAGE will continue on a part-time basis through the following academic year. Students will receive a $5,000 stipend.

The ENCOURAGE-Diversity Program provides a well-rounded training experience that includes but is not limited to:

  • Networking opportunities with Moffitt faculty, staff and fellow trainees
  • Scientific Communication Workshop
  • Presentation Skills Workshop
  • Campus seminars and lab meetings
  • Presenting at Research Day, the summer undergraduate intern presentation event
  • Presenting at Moffitt Scientific Symposium- the campus-wide conference for all trainees and students at the center, hosted on the campus of the University of South Florida

Program Eligibility:

  • Identify as an underrepresented minority within science and medicine. i.e. Hispanic/Latino, African-American/Black, or Indigenous American.
  • Interns are expected to return to continue their studies after their summer at Moffitt. For that reason, graduating seniors are not eligible.
  • Applicants must be currently enrolled at one of the four local institutions:
    • Hillsborough Community College
    • St. Leo University
    • Pasco Hernando State College
    • University of South Florida
  • Applicants must major in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.
  • 3.0 GPA or higher
  • Be able to commit to full-time during the summer and part-time during the fall/spring semesters

How To Apply:

The application deadline is February 13, 2024.

  1. Fill out an electronic application which will include:
    • Personal statement
    • Two letters of reference
      • One must speak on the student academically
      • One must speak on the student professionally or through extracurricular/community service experiences.
    • Signed statement of commitment

       2. Request your official college transcripts to be sent electronically to We will not be able to accept unofficial transcripts.

Program Contact:

Paola Uscanga
Program Administrator

Faculty Mentors for the ENCOURAGE-Diversity Program

Selected interns will be matched with one of the mentors listed below.

Elsa Flores, PhD

Elsa R. Flores, PhD
Division Chief, Basic Science 
Research Focus: Molecular Oncology focused on defining the roles of the p53 family of proteins


Clement K. Gwede, PhD, Clement K. Gwede, PhDMPH, RN, FAAN, FAACE, FSBM

Department of Health Outcomes and Behavior
Research Focus: Reduce cancer health disparities using community-based participatory research methods to implement interventions.

John Koomen, PhDJohn M. Koomen, PhD

Department of Molecular Oncology
Research Focus: Applying proteomic and metabolic techniques to understand fundamentals of tumor biology.

Paulo Rodriguez, PhDPaulo Rodriguez, PhD

Department of Immunology
Research Focus: Developing strategies to restore protective immunity in cancer patients, leading to long-lasting anti-tumor effector T cell immunity.

Tiffany Carson, PhDTiffany L. Carson, PhD, MPH

Department of Health Outcomes and Behavior
Research Focus: How stress and weight impact cancer prevention and control and relationships to the microbiota, with a focus on Black women.

Derek Duckett, PhDDerek R. Duckett, PhD

Department of Drug Discovery
Research Focus: Developing novel inhibitors to interrogate signaling pathways and with the goal of developing future treatments for breast cancer, lung cancer, and lymphoma.