With contributions from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Bayer Material Sciences, and grateful patient families, The UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Academy was instituted in the summer of 2009. The program’s mission is to provide cutting edge research and career preparatory experiences to a diverse group of highly motivated high school students who are pursuing higher education and careers in STEM fields, especially research and medicine. The eight-week program was launched with five students who attended a series of cancer biology lectures presented by a UPMC Hillman clinician/researcher, a biology professor, and a University of Pittsburgh medical student. The program curriculum also included presentations from clinicians and researchers from across UPMC Hillman disciplines focusing on clinical care, career options, and career preparation. Scholars were led on tours of a variety of clinical and research facilities at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Daily programming for each student required conducting laboratory research in a UPMC Hillman lab with an assigned faculty mentor and post-graduate student. The program culminated with a seminar/reception at UPMC Hillman where scholars gave oral and poster presentations.

Since 2009, the program has received major funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) CURE Program, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF), and UPMC allowing us to expand research opportunities to an impressive 69 scholars in 2017. Through continued collaborations with various local and nationally-based organizations, the 9th Annual UPCI Academy was successfully completed on August 4, 2017. For a complete list of our partners and Advisory Board, see Academy Overview.

In 2015, the program continued the collaboration between UPMC Hillman Cancer Center; the Departments of Biomedical Informatics and Immunology; The Drug Discovery Institute; and the Women’s Cancer Research Center at Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) to focus on the educational components. This past summer also marked the pilot run of the Cancer Environment, Bioengineering, Imaging and Genetics (CEBIG) site at Bridgeside Pointe II, which was instituted as a collaboration between The McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the Departments of Environmental and Occupational Health; Microbiology & Molecular Genetics; and Bioengineering.

In 2018, the Academy piloted the program for deaf students for the first time.

In 2019, the Tumor Immunology site expanded and was renamed to be the Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy. The CEBIG site was renamed to Technology Drive X. In addition, the program was recognized by HundrED for its Pittsburgh Spotlight and as one of its 100 Global Innovations for 2020. The Hillman Academy also appeared on local TV as part of KDKA’s Kidsburgh segment and on national public radio through The Confluence.

With expanded academic interests, we widened our recruitment strategies and reached out to a larger number of students in the region, with over 400 applications this past spring.