The CIRM Creativity Program is a novel internship program for high school students in cutting edge stem cell research facilities. It is a motivating, stimulating and successful program encouraging young people from California to enter the field of stem cell biology and research. We conducted a previous successful summer internship program where motivated and talented students from Northern CA high schools were selected from the winners of our University’s well-established high school student award program in the field of biotechnology and regenerative medicine. This program was highly rewarding for both students and mentors. We now propose to expand this program to include more students. They will participate in a lab project guided by a mentor, and can choose to intern in one of 29 laboratories involved in developing cutting edge stem cell therapies for injury and diseases that currently have few other options for treatment. Students will participate in a formal theoretical and practical class in stem cell biology and stem cell manufacturing practices, earn a certificate of training in how stem cell treatments are produced, and will prepare and present, in front of their peers and CIRM officers, a poster about their project. They will also participate in an additional project to stimulate creative thinking. These high school students will soon become a vital part of our future research community and will contribute highly to life saving, cutting edge stem cell research.
Statement of Benefit to California:
The CIRM Creativity Program, a novel internship program for high school students in stem cell research facilities is a motivating, stimulating and successful program encouraging young people from the State of California to enter the field of stem cell biology and research. A pilot program conducted with 4 high school students last year at our institution showed that the summer spent at a cutting edge stem cell research facility was not only a highly educational experience for the students, but also helped them shape their intentions for a future career in science and possibly stem cell research in the State of California. Our previous experience and the expanded program planned for the coming year highlights the following areas of benefit to the State of California: Highly motivated and also talented students are selected from the pool of applicants who may become California's future leaders in biotechnology and stem cell biology. Interested and motivated high school students are of highly diverse backgrounds and may be of underserved status; they are shown a career path that may not have been available to them otherwise. A pool of excellent researchers and highly skilled biotechnology laboratory personnel will be needed in the near and extended future to manufacture stem cell treatments in California which are currently developed and moved into the clinic by CIRM funded stem cell research laboratories. These young people are the future of California's health and economy.
Reviewers generally agreed that this program offers some unique features and experience including a translational focus and student exposure to biotechnology and cell manufacturing techniques. The Program Director’s (PD) expertise in stem cell biology and cell production was also viewed as an asset. However, there were serious concerns about the PD’s limited experience in leading high school internship programs and about a lack of clarity and insufficient details on a number of key issues. These include inadequate information about student recruitment, selection committee activities, available mentors and the size and characteristics of the pool from which the students will be selected. Additionally, reviewers expressed concern about the limited scope of program activities. The second discipline also was viewed as too limited in scope and poorly integrated into the larger program. Reviewers further questioned the applicant institution’s commitment to and involvement in managing this program. Overall, reviewers viewed this as a new program with a very limited track record and narrow scope. Although it offers some unique features, reviewers found serious deficiencies in key program details and inadequate plans.
- A motion was made to recommend this application for funding. The motion failed.