The beginnings of a career in cancer research and medicine

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Summertime is ideal for exploring possible life paths. For undergraduate students joining Mayo’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, the experience is sometimes the first step toward a career in biomedical research and medicine. As of June, the 2023 class of SURF students — 164 undergraduates who were selected from more than 1,800 applicants — are beginning projects in research labs on Mayo’s campuses in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota.

Former SURF student Eran Maina (pictured with his mother) spent time doing research in the Mayo Clinic cancer lab of Evette Radisky, Ph.D., and made a discovery that opened a new avenue in ovarian cancer research.

The program was pivotal in former SURF student Eran Maina's quest to become a physician-scientist. His goal took shape following his mother’s treatment for breast cancer at Mayo Clinic in Florida. “Fortunately, my mom is doing very well today,” Maina says. “Her experiences at Mayo Clinic are what inspired me to become more interested in biomedical research and also medicine.”

Image of Evette S. Radisky, PhD
Evette S. Radisky, Ph.D.

After his sophomore year in college, Maina joined Mayo’s SURF program. He began a research project studying ovarian cancer in the lab of cancer biologist Evette Radisky, Ph.D. The 10-week program made an impression on him and on the lab. “Eran actually made a very exciting discovery in his short internship,” Dr. Radisky says. “The projects he began are currently being continued as active lines of investigation in our laboratory, as we work toward novel therapeutic avenues to benefit ovarian cancer patients.”

He continued at Mayo in another pre-career research program – Graduate Research Education Program (GREP) – after he completed his undergraduate degree. “When I look forward to the type of physician and scientist I’d like to be, I’d really like to join those Mayo physicians and scientists who are looking forward to the future and are trying to develop new ways of giving patients hope throughout their treatment,” Maina says. Watch the video to learn more about his research journey.

—Kate Ledger