Funding opportunities

Stem Cell Internships for Laboratory-based Learning (SCILL)

Funding Type: 
Bridges
Grant Number: 
TB1-01195
Principle Investigator: 
Funds requested: 
$1 733 760
Funding Recommendations: 
Recommended
Grant approved: 
Yes
Public Abstract: 
A Consortium for Stem Cell Internships in Laboratory-based Learning was formed by faculty and administrators from five institutions who made a commitment to educate and train 30 students at the graduate level for careers in stem cell biology, and to increase awareness about scientific and societal issues related to stem cell biology and regenerative medicine among non-science majors. These two goals will be achieved by means of a three-year CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Research Award. The lead University has a strong tradition of educating a diverse student population, and the Program Director heads a department that offers the extensive classroom graduate laboratory training, and operates two nationally acclaimed graduate programs. The Consortium for Stem Cell Internship program is designed to equip students with a broad-based understanding of stem cell biology through classroom instruction and seminars, and in-depth, laboratory-based expertise in a specialty area unique to each student’s professional development plan through a year-long internship. More than 60 stem cell research investigators from our consortium partner institutions are committed to educating and training graduate students of the highest caliber for careers in stem cell biology through year-long research internships and other educational-enhancing activities. Each student in the program will have diverse research internship opportunities in basic cell and molecular research at our research university partners, translational research involving stem cell product development at our corporate partner, and clinical applications of stem cell science at our non-profit institute partner. On successful completion of the curriculum and their year-long internship, these students will be awarded a master’s degree and will be well-prepared for a stem cell career. The second goal (increasing awareness about scientific and societal issues related to stem cell biology and regenerative medicine among non-science majors) will be achieved by development of curricular materials appropriate for non-science majors to be included in a general education course. Materials developed for this course will be refined for wider online distribution and made available for inclusion in other biology courses at our university and elsewhere.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
A Consortium for Stem Cell Internships in Laboratory-based Learning was formed by faculty and administrators from five institutions who made a commitment to educate and train 30 students at the graduate level for careers in stem cell biology, and to increase awareness about scientific and societal issues related to stem cell biology and regenerative medicine among non-science majors. These two goals will be achieved by means of a three-year CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Research Award. The lead University has a strong tradition of educating a diverse student population, and the Program Director heads a department that offers the extensive classroom graduate laboratory training, and operates two nationally acclaimed graduate internship programs. The Consortium for Stem Cell Internship program is designed to equip students with a broad-based understanding of stem cell biology through classroom instruction and seminars, and in-depth, laboratory-based expertise in a specialty area unique to each student’s professional development plan through a year-long internship. More than 60 stem cell research investigators from our premiere consortium partner institutions are committed to educating and training graduate students of the highest caliber for careers in stem cell biology through year-long research internships and other educational-enhancing activities. Each student in the program will have diverse research internship opportunities in basic cell and molecular research at our research university partners, translational research involving stem cell product development at our corporate partner, and clinical applications of stem cell science at our non-profit institute partner. On successful completion of the curriculum and their year-long internship, these students will be awarded a master’s degree and be well-prepared for a stem cell career. This CIRM-supported program, enthusiastically endorsed by the leaders in the stem cell arena, will ensure that California will continue to lead the nation in a providing regional stem cell workforce of the highest quality. The second goal (increasing awareness about scientific and societal issues related to stem cell biology and regenerative medicine among non-science majors) will be achieved by development of curricular materials appropriate for non-science majors to be included in a general education course. Materials developed for this course will be refined for wider online distribution and made available for inclusion in other biology courses at our university and elsewhere.
Review Summary: 
This application proposes to educate and train 30 students at the graduate level for careers in stem cell biology through classroom education, seminars, and laboratory internships, and also increase awareness among non-science majors. Critical to the program is partnership with four other institutions, including academic institutions offering internships in basic research as well as non-profit and for profit organizations offering internships in translational research and product development. The internship program will be a part of either of two existing masters programs, one in biological sciences, the other in biotechnology. During the first year, students will take graduate level laboratory courses in molecular biology, stem cell biology and immunology. During the second year, students will participate in the internship program. Care will be given to the internship decision, which will take into account the student’s development plan and the host internship site. Students will also participate in seminars that address topics in bench to bedside translational research and development (e.g. GMP), flow cytometry and other relevant topics. At the end of the internship experience, students will submit a portfolio including their professional development plan, an internship research report, and an internship assessment report. They will also take oral and written examinations. Successful candidates will be awarded a Master’s degree. The reviewers found the training plan to be well described in the application, well organized and with adequate integration of all training activities into a comprehensive Masters degree program. They noted that the first-year educational activities of classroom laboratory experience at the applicant institution will provide a broad-based understanding of stem cell biology and thoroughly prepare the students for the internship year. Many of these classes are already in place. The reviewers cited the excellent basic research internship research opportunities as well as more applied internship opportunities described in letters from these host institutions. They noted that the research internships are at laboratories that will provide adequate hands-on experience. Reviewers were particularly enthusiastic about the planned one-year duration of the internships, noting that this was an adequate duration to meet the program goals. They cited as additional strengths the students’ development of a research plan with their mentorship team (intern, home institution coordinator, home institution mentor and host institution research mentor) and the applicant institution’s experience in placing interns in host labs through another program. The reviewers were agreed that the institutional commitment was strong; there were strong letters of support from the Provost, Dean and Chief Operating Officer. The letter from the Dean describes a coordinated effort by a number of faculty at the home institution to put this grant together. Letters from the Provost and from the Dean also cite a commitment of more than $86,000 in matching funds that will support stipends for faculty mentors and the mentorship coordinator. The applicant institution has sufficient laboratory infrastructure to accommodate the full cohort of students in cell culture and other laboratory experiences. Letters of support documented the availability of laboratory internships and demonstrated the enthusiastic participation of partner institutions. The reviewers commented that the roles of the Program Director (PD) and the various leaders are well described and appropriate. The PD provides leadership, and administrative, budget, personnel, and scheduling authority. They noted that the proposed PD chairs a biological science department at the applicant institution and has extensive research and mentoring experience (1100 biology majors in 8 degree programs) that will be valuable to the program. Reviewers did note that the PD does not have first hand experience in the stem cell field. The PD will be assisted by an Advisory Committee that includes members with experience in education and mentoring, in stem cell research, and in industrial applications. One reviewer suggested that the advisory committee needed a few more host faculty members. Reviewers commented that the institution’s plan and criteria to recruit students to the program was reasonable. They did note, however, that although the applicant institution has a diverse student population and is a long-term participant in the development of students for research careers via NIH minority research support mechanisms, there is little description of how a diverse student population will be attracted to this program. Reviewers noted that measures for program success were described although the specific measures constituting success were not specified. They would have liked more quantitative documentation of success from comparable home institution programs. Overall, the reviewers considered this to be a meritorious program based on a well integrated and well developed training plan that incorporated year long internships representing a diversity of research opportunities at regional organizations, strong home and host institutional commitment and capable program administration.
Conflicts: 

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