C★STAR Program

The Cancer Scholars for Translational and Applied Research (C★STAR) program brings together translational teams comprised of a graduate student researcher, a Cancer Center at Illinois (CCIL) member, and a Carle clinician that create a research project that facilitates formal interaction within clinical and academic settings to address cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, or survivorship.

Programmatic activities may include periodic team updates, participation in grand rounds, poster sessions, symposia, receptions, CCIL meetings, seminars, and workshops. Expected program outcomes include journal publications and external funding proposal submissions to sustain the project beyond this initial institutional support.

CSTAR Cover Photo

Program Goals

  • Encourage teams to design projects pertinent to cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, or treatment that reflect Carle’s healthcare mission.
  • Provide an educational opportunity for Illinois students to engage in applied and translational research. Projects may continue for up to three years, contingent upon progress. Progress is best indicated by collaborative, peer-reviewed publications and applications for federal support, specifically to the NCI.
  • Promote research team submission of journal articles and proposals to national funding agencies (i.e., National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, or the Department of Defense) or foundations that reflect the mission of the CCIL.

Program Guidelines

Dates and Deadlines

Proposals are not being accepted at the moment.


The translational research team is comprised of a:

  • University of Illinois faculty and CCIL member who will serve as the project’s lead principal investigator (PI) and assume organizational leadership for the project.
  • Current Carle clinician in the oncology or complementary department.
  • Current University of Illinois graduate student interested in translational research.

A CCIL member can serve as the project lead on more than one submitted project, provided that they are scientifically distinct. Please ensure Member or Associate Member status with CCIL prior to application. Contact us at cancercenter@Illinois.edu for membership verification if you are unsure.

Proposal Preparation

Proposals should not exceed four (4) pages (single space, 0.5-inch margins including all references, figures and tables). Guidelines and the maximum number of pages for each section are described below. Supplemental attachments are not permitted.

Proposal Content

  1. Coversheet/Title Page (1 Page)
    1. Project title
    2. The names and contact information of the three team members (affiliations, email addresses, and phone numbers of the faculty researcher, clinician, and graduate student researcher)
  2. Section 1. Project Abstract (1 Page)
    1. Write in plain language with no jargon or scientific/technical terms, so that a layperson can understand the importance of the project
    2. Limit length to 30 lines or less of text
    3. Include the project’s broad, long-term objectives and specific aims
    4. Include a broad description of the research design and methods for achieving the stated goals
  3. Section 2. Project Narrative & Milestones (2 Pages)
    1. Detail the proposed work, including its potential for broad impact. In the interest of brevity, do not repeat the clearly stated information from the abstract (e.g., specific aims or broad overall goal).
    2. Describe how the proposed activities are relevant across the CCIL mission and programs.
    3. Summarize the role and qualifications of each team member (the faculty PI, clinician, and graduate student researcher).
    4. Plan for collaboration, including frequency of regular project meetings, strategy to supervise student, joint proposals that may arise (including potential federal agencies) and any special considerations (such as IRB).
    5. Provide a list of scientific and organizational timeline/milestones for the 2021-22 academic year.
  4. Section 3. Letters of Support (Not Included in the Page Count)
    1. Letters of support must clearly outline the commitment and scope of work to the project and be included from the:
      1. Clinician or clinical staff, certifying that the project was co-designed with his/her input.
      2. CCIL member, clearly stating that they will coordinate the project, organize regular team meetings, provide progress reports, supervise the student, and administer and oversee the research and related activities of the project.

    Selected teams will receive funding for up to three years to support a 9-month graduate research assistantship annually. The project may be renewed on an annual basis, based on evidence of progress, achievement of milestones, and in conjunction with a public presentation of results. The CCIL member and clinician must commit to providing an appropriate environment for the project, co-mentoring students and support for other research costs. The CCIL will additionally provide support for the student’s travel to one cancer-focused conference a year, if a submitted abstract from the collaborative project is selected for poster or platform presentation. The projects may also be selected for grants to use CCIL Shared Resources as appropriate and subject to availability.

    Need a Clinical Collaborator

    Do you have a clinical partner? Research teams interested in applying for this opportunity who are seeking the input of a clinician partner can briefly present their idea before a group of clinicians via Zoom. To sign up for a Spring 2022 presentation slot, please contact Margaret Browne Huntt.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    I am an international student. Am I eligible to apply?
    Yes, international students can and are encouraged to apply.

    How many years is the money typically awarded for?
    If selected, funds are awarded annually on a competitive basis for up to three (3) years.

    How many awards are given out each year?
    The program is highly competitive. Up to six (6) awards are given per year.

    Are late materials accepted?
    No, all application materials should be submitted by the deadline noted for consideration. This includes letters of support and/or recommendation letters.

    Do I need to send a research statement by email?
    No, you are encouraged to use the online application portal to submit your research statement and other application material.

    I don’t have a Carle physician collaborator, can I still apply?
    Yes, applications should still be submitted even though a “match” has not been formally made. All complete applications will be reviewed. Matches can be made during the review process (for projects not having a collaborator).

    Is there any financial support for the recipient of the award?
    Yes, students selected to participate in the program may receive up to a 9-month graduate research assistantship appointment.

    Can the letter of recommendation also serve as a letter of support?
    Yes, the letter of recommendation from your faculty advisor/department head can also serve as a letter of support. The letter must be signed by the appropriate person and state that the faculty advisor and/or department head agrees to provide half of the program funding for the student if awarded.

    Do recommenders need to be affiliated with a university?
    No, letters of recommendation can be provided by individuals outside of the University of Illinois system. The recommender MUST be knowledgeable of your research skills and/or potential.

    How much would the time commitment be per week?
    The program is equivalent to a graduate research assistantship.

    What should the research statement include?
    The research statement should include a description of the project with specific goals/aims listed. It should state what is being tested or explored and what the student/research team hopes to learn and accomplish.

    Is the project we are planning to work on a project we come up with on our own or one we are placed with based on our interests?
    Projects are developed with the assistance of a faculty mentor. Leeway should be left in the project design to integrate ongoing feedback from a physician collaborator (if awarded). This program does not conduct project design and placement.

    Is this program meant for students who are just starting out in research, or should we have prior research experience?
    Both—this program is a team-based research and mentoring program. Students are mentored by a University of Illinois faculty mentor and a Carle physician.

    In a previous round, I participated in an open forum where I presented before members of the Carle medical staff. Will I be doing this again?
    No, presentations to the Carle Cancer Center medical staff will not be made this round.

    I have a project, but I am not sure if it would be right for the program. What should I do?
    If your topic is an area of emphasis listed in the announcement, we encourage you to apply. More information about the program is available here.

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