FAQs

Who is Eligible to Apply to The UPMC  Hillman Cancer Center Academy?

We accept applications from all high school students but preference is given to rising juniors and seniors. Applicants must be at least 15 years of age by the start date of the program; be in good academic standing; and have no school suspensions on their records. No applicant is guaranteed admission to the Hillman Academy. The University of Pittsburgh mandates that people be at least 16 years old in order to access its “wet lab” facilities. Therefore, Hillman Academy participants under the age of 16 would only be eligible to join one of the academy’s computer analysis or “dry lab” facilities. Hillman Academy dry labs include:

  1. Computer Sciences, Biology, and Biomedical Informatics (CoSBBI)
  2. Computational Biology (CompBio)

What is the Difference Between a “Wet Lab” and a “Dry Lab?”

A “wet lab” is a lab in which experimentation involves the direct handling of chemicals and biological material often with liquid solutions or volatile phases. A “dry lab,” on the other hand, is a lab where experimentation is done through computer modeling/data compilation. The majority of labs within the Hillman Academy are wet labs. However, the CoSBBI and CompBio sites are predominantly dry lab experiences. In fact, scholars accepted into either CoSBBI or CompBio may conduct research that is strictly computational.

How are Scholars Chosen for the Six Program Sites and what are the differences between them?

Applicants are asked to rank their choices for the six program sites in their application (1 being their first choice progressing to 6, which is their last choice):

Sites of The Hillman Academy

  • Cancer Biology (CB)
  • Computer Science, Biology and Biomedical Informatics (CoSBBI)
  • Computational Biology (CompBio)
  • Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy (ICI)
  • Ophthalmology (OPT)
  • Tech Drive X (TDX)
  • Women’s Cancer Research Center (WCRC)
  • Full details on the sites here.

We make every effort to place accepted scholars in one of their top two program choices based on the merit of their applications. However, placement of scholars in one of their top two site choices is not guaranteed. Each site has their own selection committee and can review applicants by criteria relevant to their labs. 

Where Does The Hillman Academy Take Place?

Programming takes place throughout The University of Pittsburgh main campus. Scholars usually report to their assigned laboratory sites (addresses included below). There are certain events which involve all Hillman Academy scholars including the Opening Day Boot Camp, Weekly Keynote Sessions, and the Final Day Symposium and Recognition Ceremony. These events are typically held in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood. During the summer, scholars will be updated on a regular basis on the locations of upcoming program events.

Site Locations:

  1. Cancer Biology (CB) – Hillman Cancer Center, 5115 Centre Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232
  2. Tech Drive-X – Bridgeside Point II, 450 Technology Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
  3. Computer Sciences, Biology and Biomedical Informatics (CoSBBI) – Department of Biomedical Informatics, 5607 Baum Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
  4. Computational Biology (CompBio) – Biomedical Science Tower (BST) III, 3501 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
  5. Tumor Immunology (TI) – Thomas E. Starzl Biomedical Science Tower (BST) I, 200 Lothrop St, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
  6. Women’s Cancer Research Center (WCRC) – Magee-Womens Research Institute, 204 Craft Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Can I attend other programs or classes while at the Hillman Academy?

No, the expectation is that you attend our program full time over the 8 weeks. Students will be expected to work on research up to 37 hours per week and to have that be their priority. We do not recommend doing this program if you already have classes and/or a full wok schedule.

What is the Program Schedule and Attendance Requirements?

Regular programming is held Monday through Friday for all seven to eight weeks of the Hillman Academy.

Scholars are expected to commit to an eight-hour day that generally starts between 8:30 AM and 9:00 AM and concludes between 4:30 PM and 5:00 PM. The start and end times vary by site and by lab.

Scholars are expected to attend the full program. Absences will not be excused unless written notification is submitted to and approved by program management prior or in the case of medical/family emergencies. Attendance for the first and last weeks of the program is mandatory.

Is There a Cost Associated With The Hillman Academy?

Participants in the Hillman Academy receive free tuition and lunch for the eight weeks of the summer program. Those who choose to stay in a University of Pittsburgh dormitory are responsible for the cost of room, board, security, and activities which amounts to $7,000. However, fully-funded dormitory housing may be available to a limited number of stipend-awarded scholars considered to be underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. To view the criteria for stipend eligibility, see “What is a stipend, and who is eligible for one?” below.

What is a Stipend, and Who is Eligible for One?

A stipend is a fixed dollar amount that is paid like a salary or allowance.

The Hillman Academy offers a finite number of stipends in the amount of $2,400 to scholars who meet National Institute of Health (NIH) criteria for populations considered to be underrepresented in the U.S. biomedical sciences. These populations, as defined in the NIH’s diversity statement, include:

  1. Individuals from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation to be underrepresented in health-related sciences on a national basis (see data and the report Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering). The following racial and ethnic groups have been shown to be underrepresented in biomedical research: Blacks or African Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.
  2. Individuals with disabilities, who are defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, as described in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended. See NSF data.
  3. Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, defined as:
    1. Individuals who come from a family with an annual income below established low-income thresholds. These thresholds are based on family size, published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census; adjusted annually for changes in the Consumer Price Index; and adjusted by the Secretary for use in all health professions programs. The Secretary periodically publishes these income levels.
    2. Individuals who come from an educational environment such as that found in certain rural or inner-city environments that has demonstrably and directly inhibited the individual from obtaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to develop and participate in a research career.

Do Students Reside on Campus or Commute Each Day?

Local scholars traditionally commute to campus each day. Scholars may be eligible for free parking based on their site location and status as a volunteer. Please inquire with program management for further details. Scholars who come from out-of-state or another region may choose to stay in a University of Pittsburgh dormitory for the summer. For information on the cost of dormitory housing, see “Is there a cost associated with the Hillman Academy?” above. Supervision and direction in the dorm is provided by qualified Resident Advisors and an assigned security guard.

Residence Quick Reference 

Does UPMC Hillman Provide Transportation to Campus?

All students formally registered in the program will be issued UPMC/Pitt ID badges which will give them access to the UPMC campus shuttles. The Pitt ID’s are proximity badges, not Pitt student ID’s and, therefore, do not qualify card holders for free transportation with the Port Authority of Allegheny County. The program faculty and staff do not provide transportation to and from the daily program or weekend activities. Scholars must make personal arrangements for travel. Scholars residing in the dormitory will be shuttled daily to and from their respective sites by bus under the supervision of Resident Advisors. 

May I Continue to Work in the Lab When the Program is Over?

On occasion, scholars return to conduct research in their respective labs after the summer program is concluded. This is only permissible if both the scholar and the scholar’s hosting lab have agreed to such arrangements and the Hillman Academy program leadership is notified prior to the end of the program. In certain cases, a scholar may be required to complete additional paperwork prior to his or her return to the lab.

What Supplies Should Scholars Bring?

Scholars should bring a notebook or binder, pens, and pencils. Textbooks and other assigned reading materials are provided by the program. Laptops are suggested but not required.

Is There a Dress Code?

Generally, dress is informal unless otherwise noted. For off-site field trips as well as the opening and closing receptions, business casual dress is required unless otherwise noted. Scholars working in wet labs are required to wear closed-toed shoes and pants for lab work.

Do Students Receive Any Form of Identification?

All scholars will receive, at no charge, UPMC/Pitt ID badges which function as ID and access cards. These badges are temporary and must be returned at the completion of the program. The Pitt ID’s are proximity badges, not Pitt student ID’s and, therefore, do not qualify card holders for free transportation with the Port Authority of Allegheny County.

What Kinds of Social Events and Activities are Available to Scholars in the Program?

Scholars are encouraged to engage in the rich cultural life of the region during the summer and should plan to participate in organized social outings and activities. We. host a number of program-wide weekend events as well as a few special activities at various time. Examples of past events include sporting events, visits to local parks and museums, and movie nights.

Who Can People Contact with Questions?

For general questions, please contact the Hillman Academy at Hillman.Academy@pitt.edu. If your child is residing in a University of Pittsburgh residence hall for the summer and you have an emergency, please contact Panther Central at 412.648.1100.

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