Training the next generation of researchers

The PCDC is deeply connected with the next generation of physicians and researchers. Each academic year, we have been fortunate to work with a medical student taking a gap year at the Pritzker School of Medicine. These students, working as Clinical Data Standards Analysts, contribute meaningfully to our data commons while deepening their own skills and applying them in a real-world setting. When they return to medical school, they bring the knowledge and ideas they have developed with the PCDC back to their cohorts.

In addition to these partnerships, the PCDC works closely with the University of Chicago Master’s in Biomedical Informatics (MScBMI) program—of which several members of our team are alumni—to mentor students working on capstone projects related to data commons.

Our mission to change the future of pediatric cancer research will only be possible with young doctors and investigators like these, who are passionate about data sharing, standards, and interoperability.

PCDC Med Student Alumni

Nicole Dussault

  • Time with PCDC: 2019-2020
  • Accomplishments:  Created data dictionaries for AML, ALL, and HL; helped create draft PCDC data model
  • What’s next for Nicole: PGY-1 in Internal Medicine at Duke University

Nicole Dussault“Working at the PCDC taught me so much about data standards, data management, and how to structure databases. This experience will be invaluable for me as I pursue my medical training, because the appropriate use of high quality data has the potential to dramatically improve patient lives.”

Alex Plana, MD

  • Time with PCDC: 2018-2019 and summer 2020
  • Accomplishments:  Built first draft of data dictionary for INSTRuCT; built first draft of data dictionary and worked to create GEARBOx matching platform for PedAL
  • What’s next for Alex: PGY-1 in Internal Medicine at the University of Chicago

Alex Plana“My time with the Pediatric Cancer Data Commons taught me the inner workings of health information database construction and management.  As data collection processes become more and more crucial to research success, my experiences helped me gain insight into how such systems will impact my future as a clinician-researcher. I aim to continue to develop skills to manage and analyze large data sets.”

MScBMI Capstone Students


Student Project Topic Mentor
Jae Chang and Yuying Gao Implication of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on the Data Commons for Cancer Research Suzi Birz
Daniel O’Connell and Patrick Zhao Review of Consent and Data Use Requirements for the Creation and Maintenance of an International Pediatric Cancer Data Commons Suzi Birz
Sage Keyes and Daniel Melnikov Mapping an Automated Matching System for Pediatric Clinical Trials Monica Palese


Student Project Topic Mentor
Shruti Seghal and Siddharth Thiruvalluvan Profiling Data Flow Models for Children’s Oncology Group to Enhance Pediatric Cancer Research Sam Volchenboum