Strengthening the Pipeline of Masters-level Scientific and Laboratory Personnel in Stem Cell Research
$1 321 440
Statement of Benefit to California:
The focus of this Bridges award application is a master’s level program designed to prepare students to become professional managers of stem cell laboratories. The program will support 10 students per year, in a 20 month program that includes 8 courses and a laboratory internship at a nearby major academic stem cell center. The program represents a real partnership between the home and host institution, and as such, was received with great enthusiasm. The program for students is, by design, practical and does not include a written thesis requirement. During the laboratory rotations, however, students are expected to be full participants in generating data, presenting at meetings, and potentially contributing to publications. The skills for supporting a stem cell lab as a lead technician in academics or industry are covered by the curriculum, including some introduction to Good Manufacturing Practices. The 8 courses in the curriculum are methods focused, as fits this program, and are based on established courses that will be tailored to the master’s students. Reviewers thought that overall integration of the program was outstanding. Examples of the thoughtful integration include a thorough orientation, and the detailed contributions of the host institution as noted in the application, and real cohesiveness in the integration of the curriculum and internships. The disease (clinical) orientation of the internships was also considered a plus, giving students a way to focus their growing knowledge (on organ systems). Reviewers thought that the applicant was ambitious in setting up a new master’s program at the time that a new program in stem cell biology was also being established, but felt that the program leadership was ready for the challenge. Half the students at the home institution are underrepresented minorities, and programs to promote science education in these populations are in place there. The application contained a good description of the mechanisms used to recruit diverse students to the program. The program director has a considerable record of grants and honors related to teaching enhancement and service, particularly for minority students, and a strong record in basic science. The advisory committee to the program includes four faculty members from the home institution and three from the host stem cell center based in a local medical center. The director of the stem cell center at the host institution is taking personal responsibility for placing the students in appropriate labs, suggesting a firm commitment by the host institution. Reviewers were impressed that the communication between the program director and the host institution indicated a true commitment to the master’s program. The host institution is clearly gearing up to provide outstanding laboratory opportunities for the students, though some reviewers were concerned that the host institution graduate students and post-doctoral fellows would be given a large workload due to the influx of master’s students into their labs. The applicant institution currently runs master’s level programs in biology, and in cell & molecular biology, which serve as a good basis for launching this proposed master’s program in applied biosciences. The inclusion of the dean of the college in the advisory committee was taken as a good sign that institutional support for the program is serious. Host mentors will provide evaluations of rotating students each semester, using a survey instrument with a specific list of questions to be covered. In summary, this Bridges Award application describes a unique master’s level program to prepare students to become managers of stem cell labs. Reviewers were impressed by the integration of the program’s curriculum, the integration of the home and host institution, plans for following the progress of students, the diversity of the student body, and the qualifications of the program director. Overall, the program should provide outstanding opportunities to its students.