Immersion Science Research

Immersion Science
Mapping nutrient targets during development

The research branch of our Immersion Science program for high school students aims to determine the direct molecular targets of dietary nutrients by determining their developmental effects in varied genetic backgrounds in the fly.

This work involves hundreds of high school students in the FCCC Teaching Lab here on campus and in high school classrooms in Philadelphia, its surrounding counties, and New Jersey, as well as graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who follow up initial results from the program with advanced approaches.  We have found that high school students produce reproducible, high quality data that is in peer-reviewed publications, suggesting that crowdsourcing of cancer-relevant experiments among hundreds of students is a successful and inexpensive approach to large-scale understanding of the roles of specific nutrients in development. Current work focuses on nutrients that target the Ras, Hedgehog, and nuclear hormone receptor signaling pathways. 

ISP Research Course on FCCC campus

The Immersion Science program (ISP) aims to train high school students in cutting-edge biomedical research. Students and teachers participate in courses in the FCCC Teaching Laboratory in the Reimann Building, conducting novel research to define the cancer signals targeted by nutrients. 

ISP is open to all students in the Philadelphia- Tri-State area and is committed to the School District of Philadelphia by hosting a Philly-only section each year. Applications are blind-reviewed, so really work to make yourself come to life from the pages of the open-ended questions. The ISP is not a GPA or standardized test-driven program. We are looking for participants that want to contribute academically, socially, and intellectually to the ISP Community.  Students who think outside-the-box, have collaborative natures, and will go on to be ambassadors of the ISP are encouraged to apply. The ISP welcomes your talents and problem solving skills as we work together towards a better understand the pathways frequently studied in cancer and the dietary components that affect them.

See our Frequently Asked Questions for more information on eligibility, deadlines, and applications

Immersion Science 2021 Application Open through October 30th

Date & Time


Immersion Science

Fox Chase Cancer Center
333 Cottman Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19111-2497

Registration Information

2021 Application Cycle open through 10/30/20 @ 11:59 pm

Application [Google Form]

Recommendation Packet [Google Doc]

All applications undergo a blind review process, in the fashion of an NIH (National Institute of Health) study section.
Our study section includes representatives from various institutions, at the post-doctoral, graduation student, and undergraduate student levels. Professionals of both scientific and education research review applications.

The Recommendation Packet should be downloaded, completed, saved/renamed. Permission to edit will not be granted. Send to

The ISP is a cost-free program.

  • We require 2 letters of recommendation with one being from a science teacher that has known the applicant for at least 1 year.
  • The program will run for 11 consecutive Saturdays: January  9th through March 20st with the 11 week being presentation day.
  • Weeks 1 – 10 will have two sessions: 8:30a- 11:30a and 12:30p – 3:30p. Applicants must be able to attend all sessions in their assigned section for completion of the program.
  • Week 11: presentation day will be an all-day event with specific information supplied at the start of the session. Family, friends, instructors, and community members are invited to attend.
  • All 11 weeks will be here at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
  • Questions: can be sent through FB messages:  or
  • ALL applicants will be contacted prior to December 21st.
New in 2020
  • This year we are accepting applications for a School District of Philadelphia only section. Application may choose to select this option, but it is not required.
  • Also new this year, students that completed either the 2019 Esperanza-FlyLab summer program OR the 2019 Penn Medicine- Abramson Cancer Center/Immersion Essentials summer program can have an exemption from either biology or chemistry pre-requisite. One of these may be concurrent.
    • If an applicant has not taken one of these summer programs, both biology and chemistry pre-requisites and must be completed (any level: standard, honors, or AP) prior to the start of the program.
  • ALL applicants must be in high school or home schooled and a minimum of 16 years of age to participate.
New This Year
  • 2021 students will need internet access. All materials, supplies and equipment will be mailed to participants or picked up in a contactless manner.

More on



Hartman, T.R., Ventresca, E.*, Hopkins, A.*, Zinshteyn, D.E., Singh, T., O’Brien, J.A., Neubert, B.C., Hartman, M.G., Schofield, H.K., Stavrides, K.P., Talbot, D. E., Riggs, D. J., Pritchard, C., O’Reilly, A.M.  Novel tools for genetic manipulation of Follicle Stem Cells in the Drosophila ovary reveal an integrin-dependent transition from quiescence to proliferation. Genetics, 114.173617 PubMed

Henry, R.A., Singh, T, Kuo, Y.M., Biester, A., O’Keefe, A., Lee, S., Andrews, A.J., O’Reilly, A.M. Quantitative measurement of histone tail acetylation reveals stage-specific regulation and response to environmental changes during Drosophila development. Biochemistry, DOI: 10.1021/acs/biochem.5b01070.


  • Immersion Science phases: I, Outreach; II, Courses; III, CURE Fellowship
  • Nutritional supplement screen
  • Immersion Science, Class of 2015
  • Immersion Science, Class of 2014
  • Immersion Science, Class of 2013
  • 2018 Cohort, funded by an award from Society for Developmental Biology

    2018 Cohort, funded by an award from Society for Developmental Biology


    ISP Summer Fellows MUST complete the Immersion Science Program’s Research Course for consideration in this program.  Fellows conduct independent research in FCCC laboratories under the direction of faculty and postdoctoral fellows.  CURE fellows are supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute that aims to address disparities at the faculty level in biomedical science.  Kahn Family fellows are supported by the generosity of the Kahn Family. 

    CURE Fellowship from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) 

    Devon Riggs (ISP ’13, CURE ’13-14, Strochlic/Peterson, O’Reilly labs)
    Benjamin Strekha (ISP ’13, CURE ’13, Rall lab)
    Vignesh Murali (ISP ’13, CURE ’13-14, Yen lab)
    Jane Miglo (ISP ’13, CURE ’13-14, Connolly lab)
    Raj Madhani (ISP ’13, CURE ’13-14, Cukierman lab)
    Danielle Talbot (ISP ’14, CURE ’14, Ruiz-Whalen/Teaching lab)
    Caroline Pritchard  (ISP ’14, CURE ’14-15, Kruger, Henry/Andrews labs)
    Laura Leonard (ISP ’14, CURE ’14, Ruiz-Whalen/Teaching lab)
    Hannah Mumber (ISP ’13, CURE ’13-14, Radu/Chernoff lab)
    Sanat Deshpande (CURE ’14-15, Arora/Enders lab)
    Angela Le (ISP ’15, CURE ’15, Ruiz-Whalen/Teaching lab)
    Amanda Browne (ISP ’14, CURE ’15-16, Singh/O’Reilly, Arora/Golemis labs)
    Shannon Robins (ISP ’14, CURE ’14-15, Yang lab)
    Anushk Gupta (ISP ’16, CURE ’16, Martinez/Sykes lab)
    Jasmine Saunders (ISP ’16, CURE ’16, O’Reilly, Ruiz-Whalen/Teaching labs)
    Yagouba Diallo (ISP ’15, CURE ’16, Rhoades/Ma and Dunbrack labs)
    Jessica Vadaketh (ISP ’14, CURE ’14-15, Sykes lab)
    Allison Biester (ISP ’14, CURE ’15, Katz lab)
    Tori McGovern (ISP ’15, CURE ’15, Fink/Peterson lab)
    Cassie Stapf (ISP ’15, CURE ’15, Bellacosa lab)
    Tess Konnovitch (ISP ’15, CURE ’15, O’Reilly lab)
    Priya Zaveri (ISP’14, CURE ’15, Robinson lab)
    Hang Truong (ISP ’16, CURE, ’16, Hartman lab)
    Marina McCormick (ISP ’16, CURE ’16, Ruiz-Whalen/Teaching lab)
    Melissa Aykit (ISP ’16, CURE ’16, O’Reilly, Ruiz-Whalen/Teaching labs)
    Melissa Wang (ISP ’16, CURE ’16, Henry/Andrews lab)
    Christina Tsiobikas (ISP ’16, CURE ’16, Simonet/Peterson lab)
    Gabriela Cruz  (ISP ’15, CURE ’16, Lee/O’Reilly lab)

    Fox Chase Cancer Center Undergraduate Fellows

    Adam Bolotsky (ISP ’13, O’Reilly lab)
    Manali Shah (ISP ’13, Arora/Enders lab)
    Yvegniya (Jane) Miglo (ISP ’13, Connolly lab)
    Jessica Vadaketh (ISP ’14, Marcantonio /Sykes lab)

    Choose Development! Fellowship from the Society for Developmental Biology (SDB)

    Caroline Pritchard (ISP ’14, O’Reilly Lab)

    Kahn Family Fellowship

    Brian Milenki (ISP ’15, Radu/Chernoff lab)
    Ethan Silver (ISP ’14, Katz lab)
    Ben Neubert (’15, Hartman/O’Reilly lab)

    Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Disease

    Cal McAuliffe   (ISP ’13, Singh/O’Reilly lab)

    The Summer Fellow program is supported by an NCI CURE grant, a supplement to the Fox Chase comprehensive cancer center P30 core grant, and by funds provided by a grateful patient fund from Fox Chase Cancer Center.


    In Fall 2013, we invited teachers from Philadelphia and the neighboring counties to train much in the same way our ISPers had in the previous Spring. In subsequent years, we developed additional collaborative partnerships in Philadelphia and New Jersey and we will be working with many of our T-ISPers to share core Immersion Science techniques with their students in alignment with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Core Standards.

    If you are a biology-, life sciences-, or chemistry-teacher, interested in learning more about bringing “Immersion Science” into your home classrooms, please contact the ISP Team:

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Dara Ruiz-Whalen, MDEd

    Dara M. Ruiz-Whalen, MSEd
    Educational Director, Immersion Science Program
    Office: R345
    Teaching Lab: R340

    Alana O'Reilly, PhD

    Alana O'Reilly, PhD
    Scientific Director, Immersion Science Program
    Office: R343



    Additional Staff

    • Jennifer Alexander, PhD, Immersion Science Instructor, 2018
    • Ebony Dyson, MSEd, Immersion Science Instructor, 2018
    • Eric Lee, PhD, Immersion Science Instructor, 2016
    • Esteban Martinez. Immersion Science Instructor, 2016
    • Christopher Aichele, MSEd, Immersion Science Instructor, 2015
    • Ryan Henry, PhD, Immersion Science Instructor, 2014
    • Maria Radu, PhD, Immersion Science Instructor, 2014
    • Ernest Boamah, PhD, Immersion Science Instructor, 2013
    • Todd Strochlic, VMD, PhD, Immersion Science Instructor, 2013

    Former Staff

    • Devon Riggs
    • Adam Bolotsky
    • Cal McAuliffe
    • Danielle Talbot
    • Benjamin Strekha
    • Sanat Deshpande
    • Ethan Silver
    • Yvegniya Miglo
    • Manali Shah
    • Raj Madhani
    • Vignesh Murali
    • Laura Leonard
    • Hannah Mumber

    For general questions about the Immersion Science program, write to us at

    The TRiP program is an ISP spin-off program that has adapted primary ISP materials and core principles to increase enthusiasm of students for science. TRiP is not affiliated with the ISP.