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



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: [email protected]

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Dara Ruiz-Whalen, MDEd

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

    Alana O'Reilly, PhD

    Alana O'Reilly, PhD
    Scientific Director, Immersion Science Program
    Office: R343
    [email protected]



    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 [email protected].

    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.