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  • Posted Friday August 2, 2019

Helios Scholars at TGen explore more than biomedical science

‘Soft skills’ and networking help prepare students researching real-life solutions for patients today

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Aug. 2, 2019 — For two members of the 2019 class of Helios Scholars at TGen, their 8-week summer internship meant more than learning about biomedical science; it meant building relationships, social and communication skills, and focusing on how TGen — an affiliate of City of Hope — is helping patients in need today.

"One of the most important things I have learned through this internship is the process and time it takes to discover a druggable target in order to create a new cancer therapy. The Helios program, and working in the lab of TGen Dr. Sunil Sharma, have given me a foundation with new techniques that I will continue to use in my future in hopes of creating new therapies for rare diseases," said Esmeralda Gomez, a sophomore at Grand Canyon University who spent her time at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) studying potential new treatments for a rare type of ovarian cancer that strikes young women and children.

For Matthew Lee, a junior at Arizona State University, Helios Scholars at TGen not only improved his critical thinking and problem-solving skills, but also honed his non-science skills, such as professional etiquette, scientific writing and public speaking.

“The Helios program not only improved my skills as a scientist, but also the ‘soft skills’ that don’t appear at the surface level of science,” said Lee, who spent his summer at TGen exploring new treatments for glioblastoma brain cancer, the disease that took the life of U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona a year ago this month.

Gomez and Lee are two of the 45 Helios interns who today are showing what they learned during a daylong scientific symposium at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown.

Sponsored by Helios Education Foundation, Helios Scholars at TGen provides undergraduate and some medical and graduate students a paid internship that aims to prepare the next generation of Arizona bioscience researchers and physicians.

Since 2007, more than 500 students have participated in Helios Scholars at TGen. TGen scientists share research expertise and technical skills, bioethics, experimental design, and the translational process of quickly moving laboratory discoveries into new therapeutics to benefit patients with neurological disorders, infectious diseases and many types of cancer.

“By immersing them in the ultra-high-tech world of modern biomedical science, TGen challenges these students to become their very best,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation. “These real-world laboratory experiences at TGen prepare students for success in college and career as well as help strengthen our state’s future knowledge-based workforce.”

Helios Scholars at TGen also is designed to increase access to academic experiences for underrepresented populations, demonstrate TGen’s and Helios’ leadership in innovative bioscience education, and enable graduates to become peer models who can inspire other students to achieve.

“Based on previous Helios Scholars that I met at ASU, I could tell that this program, as well as TGen as an institution, were extraordinary,” said Lee, who plans to attend graduate school so he can help “push medicine past its current boundaries.”

Gomez, who wants to pursue a career in biomedical research, and perhaps go to medical school, recommends that others apply for the Helios program: “I would highly recommend this internship to other students because it allows for hands-on experience, and gives students the opportunity to contribute to groundbreaking technologies.”

TGen each year receives hundreds of applications for the 45 summer Helios positions.

“Now in our 13th summer, Helios Scholars at TGen strives to lift up these students so they can further expand and develop the full potential of their budding talents,” said Kristen Kaus, TGen Education and Outreach Specialist.

Applications for the 2020 Helios program will open in early January and close by early-to-mid-February.

For more information, please contact Julie Euber, TGen Manager of Education and Outreach, at [email protected] or 602-343-8459, or go to

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About Helios Education Foundation
Helios Education Foundation is dedicated to creating opportunities for individuals in Arizona and Florida to achieve a postsecondary education. The Foundation’s work is driven by four fundamental beliefs in Community, Investment, Equity and Partnership.  Helios invests in programs and initiatives across the full education continuum – from early grade success through postsecondary education. In Arizona, where Latino students comprise the largest percentage of the K-12 public school population, the Foundation is implementing its Arizona Latino Student Success initiative focused on preparing all students - especially students in high poverty, underserved Latino communities - for success.  Through Helios’ Florida Regional Student Success Initiative, the Foundation is helping underserved, minority, first-generation students from the state's large population centers in Miami, Orlando and Tampa achieve a postsecondary education. 
Since 2006, the Foundation has invested more than $200 million in education programs and initiatives in both states. To learn more about Helios, visit us online at

Media Contact:
Rebecca Lindgren
Vice President, Marketing Communications
Helios Education Foundation
[email protected]

About TGen, an affiliate of City of Hope
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life-changing results.  TGen is affiliated with City of Hope, a world-renowned independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases:  This precision medicine affiliation enables both institutes to complement each other in research and patient care, with City of Hope providing a significant clinical setting to advance scientific discoveries made by TGen.  TGen is focused on helping patients with neurological disorders, cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases through cutting-edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research toward patient benefit).  TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and complex rare diseases in adults and children.  Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: Follow TGen on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter @TGen.

Media Contact:
Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
[email protected]

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