Our institution's long-standing Research Mentorship Program is a hands-on program for highly motivated high school students interested in participating in academic research in a variety of disciplines. During their six intensive weeks on campus, participants learn to analyze papers and write their own, evaluate research presentations and present their own research in a culminating symposium, and engage in aspects of on-going research with [REDACTED] faculty or one of their research team members as a mentor. Depending on the nature of the project, lab hours may range from 30 to 40 hours a week. In summer 2011, CIRM funded a pilot program in stem cell research within our Research Mentorship Program and we would like to increase the number of CIRM students from 6 to 10 and invite more researchers from our 30 research faculty who work in our Stem Cell Research Center to mentor these interested students. The future of stem cell research in the state depends on successful recruitment of top people at all levels. Active populations of aware and highly knowledgeable pre-exposed bright thinkers can predictably lead to a blossom of a generation of workers and leaders who can be ready to push forward the frontiers of stem cell research. By immersing capable young people in this rewarding experience, we believe we are helping to develop the next generation of stem cell researchers.
Statement of Benefit to California:
Stem cell research is at the core of multiple fields in cell biology including cell division, regeneration, and differentiation. In addition to the vast expectations that the field harbors for regenerative medicine of many types, an active workforce well educated and enthused about stem cell research will no doubt lead to new developments and understanding of the life of a cell, any embryonic cell, and any reversible stages. Uncontrolled cancer proliferation, well controlled embryonic development, and all living cell functions involved will benefit from progress in this research.
Year 1The goal of UC, Santa Barbara's Research Mentorship Program (RMP) is to excite pre-college students about scientific research by partnering them with a UC, Santa Barbara researcher or professor performing research. They spend their 6-weeks on campus learning research techniques and working directly with researchers. As such, the Creativity Grant was a perfect match for the program, particularly as UC, Santa Barbara is actively involved in stem-cell research.
In this first year of the grant, UCSB was able to identify 10 such students for receipt of a CIRM stipend. These students do not perform the actual research, but instead, work under the tutelage of a stem-cell scientist in helping with a component of the scientists’ research. Eight of the ten recipients were able to attend the CIRM Conference and Poster Session at Stanford University. Our survey feedback from students involved in CIRM was overwhelmingly positive, with several indicated they believe a life of research is their future. Additionally, two students are still in contact with their mentor, actively still involved with aspects of their mentor's research. Finally, four students continued their interest in stem-cell research, wishing to continue presenting about their CIRM/RMP experience. These four were accepted to present at the American Junior Academy of Science (AJAS) Conference in Boston, which is held each year in conjunction with the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting. They presented their work and were also taken on tours of several labs in the Boston area. There is little doubt that RMP and the CIRM Creativity Award sparked their passion for scientific discovery. The Research Mentorship Program will be following these students progress as they enter university in the next two years, to discover their chosen university as well as the majors they've selected.
Year 2The UC Santa Barbara Summer Research Mentorship Program (RMP) is the ideal learning opportunity for highly motivated Pre-College students because it excites them about scientific research. This six-week program accepts high-achieving high school students from all over the world and offers them a variety of interdisciplinary projects to chose from. Each student is given the opportunity to work directly with a UC Santa Barbara research mentor (grad student, postdoc, researcher, or faculty) who guides the student through the academic research process, techniques, and as a result prepares them to communicate confidently about their discipline in an informed and professional manner. In addition to gaining a deep relationship with their mentor and the academic benefits, the student will be submersed into University life and be networked with equally ambitious and curious peers. As such, the Creativity Grant was a perfect match for the program, particularly as UC Santa Barbara is actively involved in stem cell research.
Similar to the first year of the grant, UC Santa Barbara was able to identify 10 such students for receipt of a CIRM scholarship. These students do not perform the actual research, but instead, work under the tutelage of a stem cell scientist in helping with a component of the scientists’ research. Nine of the ten recipients were able to attend the 2013 CIRM Conference and Poster Session in San Francisco. Our survey feedback from students involved in CIRM was overwhelmingly positive, with several indicating that they believe a life of research is their future. One student in particular mentioned that "If I was an established stem cell researcher in California in 2040, I would probably look back at my CIRM Creativity Award Internship as the beginning of my path."
“I think RMP is great way for high school students to get exposed to research and get exposed to a life in research,” said Ami Thakrar, Dos Pueblos High School junior. “It also helped me better understand what I want to do with my future. And I think it did the same for many of my peers.” Ms. Thakrar represented UC Santa Barbara at the CIRM Conference this year. We had several parents and general audience members come up to us and tell us how impressed they were with her presentation skills. We truly believe that this fellowship helped mold and groom these students for a future in scientific research and we will not be surprised if the majority of them keep doing research in the stem cell field.
All of our students are in still in contact with their mentors and many of them are working on expanding their interest in stem cell research, wishing to continue presenting about their CIRM/RMP experience. There is little doubt that RMP and the CIRM Creativity Award sparked our students' passion for scientific discovery. We have several students who have applied to participate in local and national competitions. The Research Mentorship Program will be following these students progress as they enter university in the next two years, to discover their chosen university as well as the majors they've selected.