$1 727 991
Statement of Benefit to California:
This application from a community college proposes a training program for 10 pre- and post-baccalaureate students per year leading to a Certificate in Stem Cell Culture. Other successful certificate programs are in place at the college, which has an interesting student population: about 40% of students in the certificate programs have bachelor’s degrees but not laboratory experience. Furthermore, the applicant has already developed much of the curriculum that will serve as the foundation of the Bridges program. Reviewers were impressed that the program was well organized and comprehensive, especially for a community college. The Bridges award would allow students in the program to be placed in world-class labs at local universities, thus extending the established and well-regarded stem cell program. Students will be recruited from a few community colleges for 12-month intensive research internships. During the internship they will be enrolled in coursework at the home (Program Director’s) community college. Other courses will be done in conjunction with major research universities in the area. Students are expected to present their research at a scientific conference. The Program Director plans to add more courses including a journal club to the program if the Bridges Award is given, but reviewers found the course descriptions a bit vague. One weakness of the program description was a lack of numbers regarding under-represented minorities, though the colleges from which students are recruited have large minority student populations. Reviewers would have also liked to see a course-load timeline in order to better understand the structure of the program. The program director has identified 40 potential mentors at outstanding research institutions, but no industry labs were identified. The program director was considered a major strength of the application, and the PD’s productive PhD and post-doctoral work at major local research institutions allows for superb contacts in those places. Reviewers considered the advisory committee to be too large. The program director has supervised a stem cell program since 2005. Given this experience and success, some reviewers raised the question of whether the Bridges award would offer much “value added” to the institution. However, generally, reviewers agreed that the applicant should be rewarded for the successful program and allowed to strengthen it through Bridges funding. Institutional commitment was represented in a letter by the college’s president. One of the host institutions also was represented by a letter from a director of a regenerative medicine institute, but letters from two of the other host institutions were written by fairly junior-level faculty. Nonetheless, because the program director has established relationships with all these local institutions, reviewers felt the contacts could be leveraged to build on these existing partnerships. Reviewers also raised concern that the program director does not appear to have a permanent position or title at the home institution. Overall, reviewers found the proposal to be well written, and the program impressively comprehensive for a community college certificate program. Reviewers would have appreciated more detail on the curriculum and on the mechanisms to recruit under-represented minorities to the program. Major strengths of the application were the program director, the track record this director has had in establishing a well-regarded stem cell program, and the wide variety of laboratory opportunities at major research institutions offered to students through the director’s established contacts. Given these considerations, the GWG was enthusiastic in recommending the program for funding.