Ronald Filler, LAS’ 70.

Urbana, Ill. Ronald Filler’s (LAS ’70) philanthropic and mentoring spirit, known on campus as the “Filler Effect”, has touched down again at the Cancer Center at Illinois – providing an annual scholarship to an undergraduate student in support of cancer research.

The CCIL is pleased to announce Elisabeth Martin, senior undergraduate in Bioengineering and Spanish, as the 2021 Filler Scholarship recipient. Martin, who is also minoring in electrical engineering, has actively participated in cancer research and bioengineering student programs since arriving on campus, in addition to balancing several volunteer and mentoring opportunities on campus and in the Champaign-Urbana community.

“Cancer research is an exciting area, with large strides being made in immunotherapy, imaging, and diagnostics, and it takes both funding and the combined efforts of a lot of people to make that happen. Scientific discovery can take a long time to make its way from the bench to the clinic, supporting cancer research is so important because it makes the cancer treatments of the future possible,” Martin said.


Also a CCIL Cancer Scholar, Martin has led a passionate college career dedicated to cancer research with the ultimate goal to become a physician-scientist in oncology and geriatrics.

“One of my grandmothers passed away relatively quickly after late-stage diagnosis with ovarian cancer; this stimulated my interest in how cancer works and how it can be diagnosed earlier to give individuals better outcomes. This ultimately led me to the Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory where my project involves imaging technology that can potentially be used in the future to screen patients for cancer. I love the diverse skill set in cancer biology, image science and processing, and scientific communication that my research requires,” Martin said.

Martin currently works in the Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory, led by Stephen Boppart, CCIL scientist and professor of electrical and computer engineering, bioengineering, and Executive Associate Dean of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Her work focuses on using label-free imaging to improve methods of early cancer detection.

image of elisabeth martin

Image of Elisabeth Martin.

“Elisabeth approached me early in her freshman year ready to take on an undergraduate research project in cancer research and took off from there. Her research on extracellular vesicles and their roles in carcinogenesis are truly cutting-edge, using advanced imaging and sensing technologies to probe their content and function. It was clear right away that Elisabeth had her sights set on goals and aspirations that will change our understanding of cancer, and improve and save the lives of many cancer patients,” Boppart said.

The Ronald H. Filler Scholarship has supported over 140 Illinois students, with plans to grow that number significantly. Upon learning about the CCIL, Filler established the scholarship to honor his dad’s legacy – the man who inspired his generosity.

“My dad died of lung cancer, and unfortunately, I’ve lost many members of my family this way,” Filler said. “I think very highly of the cancer research at the Cancer Center at Illinois. And I wanted to help support students who want to help save someone else, even if it’s not a cure, but can help alleviate someone’s pain or end suffering, then it’s worth it.”








– Written by Jordan Goebig, Communications Manager

The CCIL Cancer Scholars Program provides unique and interdisciplinary student learning experiences and inspires education and deep scholarship through exposure to research and grand challenges early in undergraduate careers. Find out more about the Cancer Scholars Program.