Our Basser Summer Scholars program is back and we are excited to introduce the six students who are with us this summer! The Basser Center is dedicated to addressing the disparities in both access and care, as well as enhancing the diversity of professionals within the healthcare field. Our hands-on summer internship immerses students in lab, classroom, and clinical research settings as they learn about basic science, cancer genetics and genetic counseling from the Basser Center team.

Applicants for the Basser Summer Scholars program are from racial/ethnic groups underrepresented in medicine, economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and/or first-generation in their family to attend college. Our interns will focus on one of these areas:

  • DNA damage repair
  • Basic science research
  • Ovarian cancer research
  • Cancer genetics and genomics research
  • Clinical experience in genetic counseling and care of high-risk patients

We asked our interns why they chose to apply to our program, what they were looking forward to getting out of this experience and what their future plans are. Learn more and meet our 2023 Basser Summer Scholars:


Emanuel Barrett

Emanuel is originally from Tennessee and is rising Junior at the University of Pennsylvania. He learned about the internship opportunity while working in a lab at Penn and was excited to learn that it matched his interests in cancer genetics and health disparities. “I found the program’s emphasis on exposing underrepresented groups to the various career paths in cancer genetics to be particularly unique and compelling.” Emanuel says. “As someone who is passionate about dismantling health disparities, I wanted to participate in a program that not only valued my passions but also wanted to further explore those passions.”

Emanuel hopes to develop meaningful relationships with the other interns and connect with some of the Basser Center faculty members. He shared “I believe that forming positive relationships with other people who are different from me but share similar goals will be very beneficial. Academically, I aim to have advanced my knowledge in cancer genetics as well as sparked new thoughts on where my love for medicine will take me. All in all, I am excited to be deeply involved in cancer genetics, and I am sure that I will be challenged in many ways.”

This fall, Emanuel will begin his third year at Penn where his is a biology major with an English minor. After undergrad, he hopes to attend medical school and continue research. He shared, “In the long run, I currently see myself practicing some type of specialized surgery while I mentor students and inspire those around me to improve health equity.”

In his free time, Emanuel loves being active, organizing social events, cooking and practicing photography. You can find him out for a run or bike ride on the Schuylkill River Trail or in the city where he’ll spend the day taking phots with his Canon DSLR.


Isabela Contreras

Isabela is from California, and has been a part of the Bernstein Lab at the University of Pennsylvania since last fall. She was introduced to the Summer Scholars program by Dr. Bernstein and after reading more about the Basser Center’s mission and program description, decided that it was the perfect opportunity for her!

“Not only do I hope to really immerse myself in my research project and lab, but I also hope to gather more exposure to the numerous careers in medical field. I hope that I can either reinforce my interest in going to medical school or be inspired to pursue another path.

Isabela plans to attend medical school after graduating from Penn and hopes to then be able to make an impact in her own community. “I hope to serve my own Latino community and other underserved communities.” she shared. “An important aspect I see myself taking part in is community outreach, as lack of information is a primary healthcare access issue.”

Isabela’s family is a large agricultural and ranch family, so she enjoys horseback riding and being out in nature. She also loves to cook - her favorite dish to make is green enchiladas!


Erica Simmons

Erica is a South Jersey native attending Brown University who was referred to our Summer Scholars Program from a genetic counselor and Brown University alumna. 

“I've known that I wanted to be a genetic counselor since middle school, and I knew that this internship would provide me with the experience I need to begin to curate my path towards becoming a genetic counselor.”

Erica hopes build her confidence and comfort with the work of genetic counseling and expand her knowledge on the field. After graduating from Brown University she plans to pursue a masters degree in genetic counseling. In her spare time, Erica enjoys singing.


Madeline Ryan

Maddie is from Pennsylvania and attends Penn State University. She came across the Basser Summer Scholars opportunity while researching summer internships in the Philadelphia area. She became interested in doing cancer research while gaining exposure to various healthcare careers, particularly genetic counseling. She shared, “I was very attracted to the Center's mission and knew that through this internship, I could not only be a part of groundbreaking research, but I could also help make a difference through the center's extensive community outreach efforts. In my eight weeks at the Basser Center, I hope to make long lasting connections with peers and mentors, all while gaining valuable research experience both in the lab and in clinic.”

After completing a Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from Penn State University, Maddie plans to pursue a masters degree in genetic counseling. She hopes to strengthen skills that will serve her in her career, sharing “I also hope that I can carry the knowledge and skills that I learn with me throughout all my future endeavors, especially on my journey to becoming a genetic counselor.”

In her free time, Maddie enjoys reading, cuddling her dog, and playing ice hockey with her dad.


Carolina Viswanath

Carolina is a Pennsylvania native who learned about this internship after reading a recent article featuring the Basser Center. Our mission and our emphasis on education spoke to her. Carolina realized that she wanted more experience in cancer research and thought that the Summer Scholars Program was a great way to gain experience and to learn what related career options were available for her.

Through this experience Carolina hopes to explore potential career options and is especially excited by the hands-on lab work, mentorship and career talks that are the foundation of the internship. She shared “I am still figuring out what I hope to do in the future, and I hope to have a better idea of that by the end of this program. I have really enjoyed seeing patients in clinic, which I didn’t expect, so med school is on my mind. I’ve also learned so much about genetic counseling and it has uncovered a whole new field for me to consider as well.”

Carolina takes part in a Latin dance group at school and spends a lot of her free time with that group, practicing styles likes salsa, mambo and bachata.


Saige Goodman

Saige is originally from Pennsylvania and is a rising sophomore at Spelman College majoring in Health Science on the pre-med track. She heard about this opportunity from a family friend who used to work as a nurse at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She was interested in our program’s exposure to cancer and research.

“I had very little to no experience performing research, and I knew very little about how genetics are related to cancer. After reading the internship's purpose and all it had to offer, I realized that it was entirely outside of my comfort zone. However, since I am on the pre-med track, I knew that it would provide me with the tools I needed to advance my knowledge and comprehension in the field of medicine I was interested in going into.”

Saige hopes this internship will enhance her skill set as she prepares for a career as an obstetrician-gynecologist. “I hope to gain a solid foundation of skills in the lab, a deeper understanding of genetics and its connection to cancer, and be able to share the knowledge I learn with my peers, family, and community.”

Outside of schoolwork, Saige loves to cook, try new restaurants, dance and spend time with her family.


We look forward to seeing what our interns accomplish this summer! For more information on the Basser Summer Scholars Program, contact us at basserinfo@uphs.upenn.edu.