$1 713 558
Statement of Benefit to California:
This is a proposal to create a CIRM Bridges program in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine for students receiving a masters (MS) or professional science masters (PSM) degree. Ten students per year will complete a series of courses at the applicant institution, including a general course in Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine and one in scientific, humanistic, ethical, and legal perspectives on stem cell technology. They will attend a week-long stem cell laboratory course at a top quality research institution in the area, and will be placed into a laboratory at one of three nearby host research institutions to complete either an 18-month internship (for MS students) or a 12-month internship (for PSM students). At the end of their internship, students will submit both written and oral reports to their home program. The coursework and internship would be integrated to allow students to graduate in a little over 2 years. Reviewers commented that this is a strong proposal based on a large and diverse applicant pool, a well-designed training program, and excellent laboratory research opportunities. The pool of potential applicants is very large and the proposal carefully addresses issues of recruitment of diverse and qualified individuals. Students in the existing MS and PSM programs are required to maintain a 3.0 grade point average, and about 60% of current students are from underrepresented minorities (URMs) or are first-generation college students. The applicant institution is recognized for its success in granting masters degrees in biology, and for a well-developed series of classes for MS and PSM students that includes writing as well as science courses. Although the one-week stem cell laboratory course was seen as short, the 12- and 18-month internships were praised as of adequate length to achieve expertise in stem cell laboratory techniques. In addition, the internship training environments are outstanding with many opportunities for academic growth at each partner host institution. The proposal outlines thoughtful plans for selecting students, matching them for internships with appropriate laboratories, and assessing their progress, thus increasing the likelihood of success a successful internship. Trainees will be matched with a lab at the host institution, taking into consideration information in the students’ application. Students will meet with the researcher selected for them and if the student should decide it is not a good match, an alternate lab will be selected. During their internship, students would meet monthly with the principal investigator on their project and would participate in their host lab activities, and they would submit both written and oral reports at the end of their internship. Reviewers commented that the proposed program contains a nice blend of scientific technical skill development as well as personal career development, with attention given to developing skills in scientific writing and communication, and an introduction to the biotech workplace environment. Reviewers spoke highly of this program’s thoughtful integration of auxiliary activities with the internship and didactic components of the MS and PSM programs. Reviewers were also very positive about the institutional commitment and partnering arrangements. The MS and PSM programs attract students from 4-year schools in the state and throughout the US, speaking to the quality of the education provided, and the applicant institution has an impressive track record of advancing the career development of its population of students. In this proposal, the institution highlights its commitment to the stem cell training program by leveraging the CIRM award with outside funding: CIRM internships would support students for 12 months, and other sources of support would be used to fund the additional 6 months of internship for the MS students. In terms of partnering, the institution has long-established interactions with institutions in the area that have strong research programs in stem cell biology, and it has experience placing MS and PSM students in laboratories at these collaborating institutions. The institutional history and evidence of commitment to this Bridges program were viewed as very positive. Finally, the program administration was considered good, although reviewers pointed to some weaknesses. One of the strengths of the proposal is the track record, experience, commitment and accomplishments of the Program Director (PD). Reviewers commented that the PD has appropriate experience in education and administration and has a strong commitment to the development of minorities. The Advisory Committee, which has appropriate representation from all relevant host institutions, also has a nice blend of scientific expertise in the field along with substantial experience in training programs and in working with URM populations. The institutional track record is generally excellent in recruiting URMs. Potential weaknesses pointed out by one reviewer were that the PD seems over committed, and that students in the program only meet once a month. The reviewer felt that students need more interaction with the PD and with each other to develop a feeling of being in a program, especially when they are heading to mainstream institutions only a few months after entering the MS program. Overall, reviewers felt that this was an outstanding program for training research personnel in stem cell research.