$1 088 108
Recommended if funds allow
Statement of Benefit to California:
The applicant institution proposes to build on an existing stem cell technician-training program and to further train students to participate in the stem cell workforce. The institution proposes to: 1) augment and update three cell culture courses associated with the existing stem cell research certificate program; 2) provide ten internships a year of 6 months duration at local non-profit and commercial organizations to selected students who have completed the stem cell certificate program; 3) provide mentoring to interns through an independent study course and 4) offer seminars for the general public twice a semester featuring stem cell researchers through an existing Arts and Lectures program. While reviewers viewed the potential to build on an existing stem cell training program at the community college as a real opportunity, concerns about the training plan, the institutional commitment and the program administration dampened their enthusiasm for this proposal. Reviewers viewed as an advantage the fact the applicant institution has an existing stem cell research certificate program, one of the few such programs nationally that is based at a large community college and serving a diverse population. They noted that this proposal will capitalize on that program by placing students who have earned a certificate into internship positions in academic and industry locations. The reviewers cited as strengths of the proposal the ability of interns to participate in a hands-on, intensive, stem cell training course at a host institution and the excellent internship opportunities available, including those in private industry that are not available typically for students at this level. While noting that the internship experience will undoubtedly be useful to the trainees, the reviewers found it not to be well described in the proposal and had concerns about the lack of detail. They considered a 6-month internship to be too short. The reviewers were unclear on the added value and integration of the internship with the student’s academic program goals, given that the current stem cell research certificate program would be a prerequisite for the internship. Specifically, they questioned whether the internship program would compete with a potentially more compelling option (i.e. a job with benefits). While they considered the proposed mentoring course interesting, they found it to be inadequately described; specifically, it was unclear whether this course involved interns meeting individually or together with the program director. Finally, the reviewers noted that there was inadequate justification for augmentation and revision of the three cell culture courses associated with the stem cell research certificate. The applicant institution’s commitment appears to be good given their track record for stem cell training, their ability to recruit a diverse range of students in the community college setting, and their clearly defined and realized goal of training entry-level stem cell research technicians. Reviewers did express concerns that host institution partnering plans involve agreements between the proposed program director and individual laboratories in which the interns will be housed. There was no documentation of support at an appropriate administrative level within the partnership (host) institutions. This was a particular concern to the reviewers in that such “informal” arrangements may not necessarily be sustainable if the parties change in their positions. In general, reviewers thought the Program Director (PD) appeared well qualified to administer the program in that she/he had strong credentials, a strong network from his/her own academic training experiences, and a dedication to providing educational paths for community college students into the world of biotechnology. They noted that as coordinator for the current stem cell certificate course, the PD already has in place much of the administration required to implement the Bridges Program. At least one reviewer expressed concern with the relatively modest experience of the PD in administering training grants or mentorship. This reviewer found this inexperience to be reflected in the structure of the proposal, which lacked clarity in several key aspects. The reviewers found the advisory board to be generally reasonable in that it was well staffed with key partners and others with experience in programs for students at this educational level, but noted that it would benefit from individuals who are not directly associated with the program. Again, a reviewer noted that many members of the advisory panel were rather junior and appeared to have relatively modest experience in administering training grants or mentorship. Finally, some reviewers commented that the process and criteria for intern selection and placement in host laboratories was not made clear in the proposal. In general, although the reviewers found the internship, in and of itself, to have merit, they also found the organization and philosophy of this particular internship program to be poorly defined. Programmatic Review A motion was made to move this application to Tier 1 based on the program providing an opportunity of unusual value to a group of trainees who are otherwise neglected. The motion to move the application to tier 1 failed.