Research Like a Champion Today

November 20, 2015

The University of Notre Dame is full of brilliant students with innovative ideas that one day could change the world. Unfortunately, some ideas never get beyond the planning stage due to lack of funding.

That’s where a unique opportunity comes in. 

Research Like a Champion

Every winter the College of Science partners with the Harper Cancer Research Institute to organize the Research Like a Champion Award. All students (undergraduate or graduate), from any College or Department are eligible, whether it’s Engineering, Biology, Mathematics, Liberal Arts, Business, etc. All disciplines are welcome.  

The only two requirements are that students must have a mentor, which doesn’t have to be a faculty member, and the project has to relate to cancer in any capacity. In the past, projects have ranged from patient advocacy to novel diagnostics and therapeutics to making a community impact.  

In 2014, Kyle Cowdrick and Cody Narciso, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering students, submitted a proposal titled, “Multiplex-Lab-on-a-Chip: High-Throughput Characterization of Breast Tumors and the 3D Microenvironment in Situ.” The goal of their project was to create a device that would enable automated multiplex labeling of hallmark cancer biomarkers. Also, the device would allow a researcher or physician to optically, rather than physically, section tissue to get a more complete picture of the cancer and its surrounding microenvironment.  

The $12,500 Research Like a Champion Award made it possible for Cowdrick and Narciso to generate the first working prototype device and validate on-chip labeling of tissues using the device. This resulted in a patent for their project and a small biomedical startup company called Enlightened Diagnostics.  

Many cancer patients, in all communities, have difficulty getting to and from scheduled treatments. They might not have a car, or be unable to drive themselves. They may be unable to find someone to drive them, or they may not even have funds for public transportation. University of Notre Dame Senior, Mollie Limb, recognized this issue, prompting her idea for a transportation program. In 2015 Limb, an Arts & Letters Pre-Professional and Sociology student, submitted a proposal titled, “Reducing Barriers to Treatment Access and Improving Health Outcomes.”  


Limb’s project studies the effects of the provisions of transportation support, including psychosocial distress levels of cancer patients as well as their rates of on-time attendance to scheduled treatment appointments.  Because of the Research Like a Champion Award, this program is able to provide a variety of support options including gas cards, public transportation passes, scheduling private rides as well as arranging volunteer rides.  

A call for proposals will be announced in February. So start thinking about how you can make an impact on one of the many complex challenges we face with cancer.

Originally published by Jenna Bilinski at on November 20, 2015.