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Dartmouth Undergrads Learn by Doing in Geisel Labs

“Teaching and research go hand in hand,” according to Duane Compton, PhD, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine. “One of the most powerful educational experiences for any student is to learn the ins and outs of pursuing a question for which no one else in the world knows the answer.”

For hundreds of Dartmouth College undergraduates, that hands-on experience happens in Geisel School of Medicine labs. For example, this fall 109 undergraduates are working and learning in labs at Geisel’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center. Endowing and supporting areas of research excellence is a priority within Geisel’s Interaction campaign, which is part of Dartmouth’s campaign, The Call to Lead.

“The proximity of the medical school to the college actually really helps the development of my personal career goals and the career goals of other pre-meds,” said Yichen Zhang, a 2017 graduate of Dartmouth College who is now a medical student at Harvard. Zhang conducted research in two biomedical labs while at Dartmouth and led the Cancer Scholars Program, which provides a cohort of 30 competitively selected undergraduates with a year-long series of small-group sessions and shadowing and mentoring opportunities in oncology.

“Our location is an asset for students and faculty,” said Compton. “We're located adjacent to Arts & Sciences, Thayer, and Tuck, which makes collaborations among faculty easy and efficient.” That ease of collaboration is felt by current students and alumni, too.

“I thought I wanted to do research but I wasn't sure,” recalled Andrea Hayes-Jordan, MD D ’87, MED ’91, who majored in religion while completing her pre-medical coursework. “There was an opportunity to do ten hours a week in one of the labs at Dartmouth, and I ended up in a leukemia lab, which was interesting because fast-forward to my career in cancer now.”

Hayes-Jordan is now chief of pediatric surgery at the University of North Carolina and a pioneer in studying and treating a rare form of cancer in children.

“One of the most unique things about Dartmouth is that you do have a very small liberal arts college and at the same time have access to these world-class research opportunities,” said Diane Gilbert-Diamond D ’98, associate professor of epidemiology at Geisel. Working in a medical school lab as an undergraduate allowed Gilbert-Diamond to build confidence in herself as someone “capable of doing research,” she recalled. “Now as a professor I have the chance to give those opportunities to undergrads.”

“Geisel faculty take pride in working with learners at all stages,” said Compton. “And, as a result, when those learners go out into the world, they are much better prepared to pursue their dreams and tackle complex problems in any discipline.”

VIDEO CREDIT: Dartmouth Media Production Group and Sarah Sentman. Sarah completed a video internship in 2018 in the Office of Development at Geisel and is a film student at Emerson College in Boston.