Advanced Science Program for Independent Research and Engineering (ASPIRE) Program: Spotlight on Portia Cummings '19
Portia Cummings '19 is one of four students taking part in the new Advanced Science Program for Independent Research and Engineering (ASPIRE) Program at the King this year. The ASPIRE course focuses on math and science research techniques, providing methods to help students further understand how research is conducted. In conjunction with the class, students attend an internship at an R01-level research laboratory to get hands-on experience in the field of modern scientific research.

Portia was chosen for the program along with fellow seniors Ashley Xu and Mallory Ehlers, and junior Harry Amadeo.


Portia is currently working in the Blasberg Laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, NY. The laboratory is led by neurologist Dr. Ron Blasberg and mainly focuses on different types of imaging to detect cancer. The laboratory is also researching tumor metabolism through lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) inhibition and immunotherapy treatments involving programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1) inhibition. The goals of this research are to have a better understanding of how tumors metabolize such that this process can be interrupted and to provide a therapy to combat cancer.

Portia's project last summer involved investigating LDH inhibition and how it affects the growth of cancer cells, and this year, she is working to identify a reporter gene with specific features that will allow for easier imaging of cancer cells. Portia comments, "This experience has really allowed me to understand the inner workings of a research laboratory and be a part of current and very much needed research, which is extremely exciting."

Portia finished the Advanced Placement (AP) Biology and Advanced Genetics courses in her Junior year, and she is currently taking AP Statistics, AP Calculus BC, AP Physics, and the ASPIRE course. Not surprisingly, Portia has already received acceptances from several top tier colleges and universities and will make her decision later this spring. She also leads a Diversity Club at her local library and enjoys spending time with her friends.


Established in 2018 by Margharet, Frank, Bea '15 and William '17 Nash, the Advanced Mathematics and Science Study Program endowed fund supports select students with demonstrated ability and interest in achieving true excellence within science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics in global competition preparation, and/or laboratory research experiences. If you are interested in supporting this opportunity for students, please contact the development office to discuss how your gift can help.