Masters of Science Specialization in Stem Cell Technology

Masters of Science Specialization in Stem Cell Technology

Funding Type: 
Bridges
Grant Number: 
TB1-01175
Approved funds: 
$3,004,061
Status: 
Active
Public Abstract: 
We propose an Master's of Science degree specialization in Stem Cell Research that will provide ten trainees with a foundation for successful careers in stem cell research. Graduates of our program will be well prepared to matriculate into stem cell-focused doctoral programs or to begin employment as research specialists in stem cell labs at for-profit or non-profit institutions. In order to achieve this goal, trainees will progress through a Master's degree program that provides them with an opportunity to gain 1) broad technical skills, 2) critical thinking and problem solving skills, 3) familiarity with current research, 4) familiarity with the ethics and theory of stem cell investigation, 5) presentation and communication skills, and 6) professional connections in the stem cell field. Trainees will acquire these skills and competencies while completing the specialization program that involves three main components: coursework, a research internship, and a thesis project. The courses are designed to provide students with training in cell culture, immunohistochemistry, animal surgery, cell delivery,and fluorescent microscopy. These courses will not only provide students with a broad set of technical skills, but prepare them to achieve maximum productivity during their internship. In addition to these laboratory courses, students will also enroll in the course focusing on the theory & ethics of stem cell research and a Stem Cell Research Seminar to gain an appreciation for the biological, medical, and societal implications of stem cell research as well as current research in the stem cell field, respectively. Following completion of their coursework, students will complete a week-long stem cell techniques course at a partner institution, before beginning their nine-month internship in stem cell research labs at one of our partner institutions. The nine-month internship will allow students to further develop their laboratory and critical thinking skills in a research-intensive environment. After their internship, trainees will implement their laboratory skills and further develop their independence and problem-solving skills through a thesis project. Through the completion of their MS degree in Stem Cell Research, students will be well-prepared to begin careers in stem cell research by pursuing additional education through a doctoral program or beginning employment as research specialists in stem cell research labs.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
The proposed Master's of Science degree specialization in stem cell research will benefit the state of California and its citizens in several ways. First, establishing the training program will provide our state's citizens with a previously unavailable opportunity to gain practical training in stem cell research and advance their careers. This benefit will become increasingly important as additional commercial ventures are established to support the effective use in stem cells for treating disease. In a related fashion, this program will provide California with an increased number of highly-trained employees to manage and participate in the research and development of stem-cell based therapeutics. Success of these stem-cell based therapeutics will in turn support effective health-care for California's citizens by providing us with the latest in disease treatments. Furthermore, this program will support the growth of the California economy by training of highly-skilled stem cell researchers to assist in the development of medically efficacious and financially lucrative stem-cell based therapeutics. Through these aspects and more, our proposed Master's of Science degree specialization in stem cell research will be of substantial benefit to the state of California and its citizens.
Progress Report: 

Year 1

Our training program is an interdisciplinary Specialization in Stem Cell Research, offered within the MS degrees in Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Animal Science. Faculty from all three departments are involved in all aspects of the program. The MS specialization is a 2-year program, which includes one academic-year of coursework (three quarters) at our institution, a week-long Stem Cell Techniques Course at the Scripps Research Institute, a full-time and off-site nine-month research internship (three quarters) at a non-profit institution or for-profit company, and a one-quarter capstone project back at our institution. During this reporting period, our third cohort of 10 students completed their research internships (at Stanford University/VA Medical Center, the University of California San Diego, the Scripps Research Institute, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies), completed their capstone projects (with faculty from Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Animal Science at our institution), and will finish their training program after presenting their work at the Trainee Meeting in mid-July. Also during this reporting period, our forth cohort of students completed the program coursework, completed the Stem Cell Techniques Course, and matched to their research internships. Finally, our fifth cohort of students has been admitted to the program and will begin coursework in the fall. The graduates of this program have strengthened the future of stem cell research in California by contributing to all aspects of the field, both directly and in-directly. Graduates of our program are directly strengthening stem cell research and regenerative medicine by performing fundamental investigations in both academic laboratories (as research associates and doctoral students) and for-profit companies, developing and manufacturing regenerative medicine products at for-profit companies, and participating in clinical-trial organization at large medical centers. Additionally, our graduates who are employed at for-profit companies in the medical device sector are indirectly benefiting the field by providing a regenerative medicine perspective to more traditional device product design and development. Detailed Description of Training Program Coursework: Our core coursework (i.e. courses taken by students from all three departments) is laboratory intensive, and includes Principles of Tissue Engineering, Cell Transplantation and Biotherapeutics, and Introduction to Biomedical Imaging. In these courses, student learn to grow cells and tissues, evaluate native and engineered tissue structure, measure tissue function, perform microsurgery to test cell-based therapies, label cellular structures and protein, and perform all manner of advanced optical microscopy. In addition to these laboratory-intensive courses, the core coursework also includes a quarterly Stem Cell Research Seminar and a seminar-style Principles of Stem Cell Biology course. Through this coursework, students learn both the theoretical knowledge and practical skills that are important for stem cell research/regenerative medicine and gain important preparation for their internship research. Internship: After completing their coursework, our student begin their internship with one of our partners, listed above. Our internship partners provide a wide variety of project opportunities for our students, from fundamental biological studies in an academic lab to device engineering for a combination product at a for-profit company, and encompass all of the major physiological systems- cardiovascular, neural, endocrine, musculo-skeletal, digestive, and respiratory. Over the 9-month internship, students work full-time, live away from their home institution, and do not enroll in any formal coursework, so that they can focus their efforts on the internship research. Capstone: After completing their internship, students complete their training with a capstone project at our institution. The capstone project challenges students to demonstrate their mastery of the internship research by independently transferring knowledge and skills gained during their internship to a novel project at our institution (i.e. outside their internship laboratory). Examples of previous projects include the derivation of equine (horse) induced pluripotent cells and the creation of "diseased" tissue engineered blood vessels to study stents.

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