Zeynep Madak-Erdogan

Urbana, Ill. The Cancer Center at Illinois (CCIL) is excited to announce that Zeynep Madak-Erdogan, associate professor of food science and health nutrition (FSHN), has been appointed a CCIL Program Leader. Focusing on education, she will join the other leaders of the CCIL’s Cancer Research Training and Education Coordination (CRTEC) activities, with a primary focus on post-doctoral programs and initiatives, mentoring of junior CCIL members, and coordination of the CCIL with the Carle Illinois College of Medicine’s cancer-related activities and initiatives.

“In the last few years, the CCIL has considerably grown educational opportunities for young scientists – ranging from high school age to postdoctoral fellows – and we will continue to invest more in this important area for the University of Illinois,” said Rohit Bhargava, CCIL Director. “Dr. Madak-Erdogan has been an active CCIL member, leading cancer research initiatives that have given her students professional training opportunities that extend even beyond the university. Her collaborative experience and research expertise will accelerate our educational programming.”  

“I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with Dr. Madak-Erdogan since she joined the Illinois faculty seven years ago, and I know we couldn’t find another individual with greater passion and the set of necessary skills to assist us with the crucial task of offering innovative and effective training across the career arc if we’d opened an international search,” said Rex H. Gaskins, CCIL Associate Director for Education and professor of animal sciences.

Madak-Erdogan, also a Health Innovation Professor for the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, has dedicated her career to improving the quality of life and outcomes for cancer patients. As Director of the Women’s Health and Metabolism Laboratory, her research combines the study of endocrinology and metabolism with molecular and cellular biology to understand how health and nutrition impact the cause, progression, and treatment of breast cancer. Since joining the University of Illinois, she has concentrated her research efforts on health disparities in cancer and other diseases, with current studies focused on estrogen receptor signaling and regulation in Black women.

“Despite how much I love my research related activities, training students is the highlight of my career. Providing them with training opportunities and a stimulating environment so that they carve their path towards becoming innovators, entrepreneurs, and successful professionals in the space of oncology is very rewarding,” Madak-Erdogan said. “Serving the CCIL community by establishing programs that will increase the likelihood of success for our trainees is a great honor.”

In addition to her research and education endeavors, she is a founding member of the Cancer Research Advocacy Group (CRAG), an organization devoted to partnering with cancer patients and survivors to provide their vital perspective to cancer research, clinical trials, outreach, and education. She also co-founded the NR-IMPACT group, which brings together early and mid-career faculty who work on the role of nuclear receptors (NR) in cancer. The group identifies and addresses major challenges facing junior faculty during the critical period of establishing their lab. She will bring insights from these leadership roles to establish training programs to better prepare early career scientist and clinicians for their next steps.

“If you want to be a successful cancer researcher, you need a patient-centered mindset and training from the earlier stages of your career to run a productive and well-funded research enterprise. I will leverage my prior expertise from CRAG and NR-IMPACT to provide the best opportunities for the future cancer researchers,” Madak-Erdogan said.

Throughout her career, Madak-Erdogan has served as a mentor to undergraduate and graduate students, and has participated in several CCIL education programs designed to introduce students and postdoctoral researchers to cancer research careers.

“Zeynep has a passion for education and pulls her research and teaching together in creative ways to address important societal issues. She has the passion for innovation and outreach and for training students, while delivering essential information to specific populations,” said Nicki J. Engeseth, professor and department head of FSHN. “She is an innovative thinker, recruiting students from different areas of expertise to creatively work together to solve problems. Her research focus, dedication, and mindset have lead her to this perfect application of her talents.”

Madak-Erdogan has taught courses in the areas of Cancer Metabolism, Toxicology, Diet, Nutrition and Cancer, and Nutrition and Women’s health. She has received several awards including NIEHS, Pre- and Postdoctoral Research Training Program in Endocrine Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology Fellowship, National Center for Supercomputing Applications Fellow, Women in Endocrinology Young Investigator Award from Endocrine Society, Mary Swartz Rose Young Investigator Award, and Bioserv Experimental Nutrition Award from American Society of Nutrition. Madak-Erdogan is also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Endocrine Society.


– Written by Jordan Goebig, CCIL Communications Manager