Student and Teacher Become First Volunteers to Visit Mapping Cancer Markers Research Team

In a first for World Community Grid, high school student Dylan Bucci and teacher Robert Esposito recently traveled to Toronto to meet the scientists running the Mapping Cancer Markers project at Krembil Research Institute. This is the first time World Community Grid volunteers have ever visited a research institution to meet with scientists who use the program.


In mid-January, Dylan Bucci, a sophomore at Sisler High School in Winnipeg, Canada, finished reconfiguring twelve high-end servers to provide computing power for the Mapping Cancer Markers project, which uses World Community Grid to accelerate the search for cancer biomarkers. 

By early May, Bucci and Sisler High School teacher Robert Esposito, who guided Dylan’s work, were headed to Toronto to meet the Mapping Cancer Markers research team at the Krembil Research Institute. There, they spent the day with scientists to see first-hand how volunteer computing contributes to the fight against cancer.

Left to right: Dr. Igor Jurisica, principal investigator for Mapping Cancer Markers; Dylan Bucci, Sisler High School student; and Robert Esposito, Sisler High School network and cybersecurity teacher 

This was the first time that World Community Grid volunteers visited a scientific institution to meet researchers whose work benefits from donated computing power. The Mapping Cancer Markers team invited Bucci and Esposito to thank them for their support of the project and to give them a behind-the-scenes look at how scientific research works.

Dylan Bucci, Robert Esposito, and Dr. Igor Jurisica discussing cancer research

The day began with a presentation and discussion led by Dr. Igor Jurisica, the principal investigator for Mapping Cancer Markers. Then, Bucci and Esposito met with members of the research team who prepare the data to be sent to World Community Grid and then analyze the results. 

Dylan Bucci examining cells at Krembil Research Institute

They also visited one of the laboratories at Krembil Research Institute where clinical data are analyzed. In the lab, they learned how researchers identify markers within cells, saw how they store their materials, looked at high-throughput gene sequencing, and learned about the ins and outs of biological lab work.

“This visit has gotten me thinking about the many options someone can have with a tech background,” says Bucci. “And a major highlight was getting to meet Dr. Jurisica. Talking to him was so uplifting, and he explained his research so well.”

“There’s not a lot of interdisciplinary study on science and technology at the high school level, and there’s a huge need for it,” adds Esposito. “World Community Grid—and this visit—is something that can help a student literally see the integration between the two. It can also help them feel that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.”

Now that they’ve returned home, Bucci and Esposito are working to expand their support of Mapping Cancer Markers. Esposito is creating lesson plans to help other teachers introduce their students to World Community Grid. And in the fall, Bucci will visit a number of middle schools in his area to teach younger students about what he learned at the Krembil Research Institute and invite them to join World Community Grid.

Click here to see a CTV Toronto News video about their visit.