Stem Cell Summer Academy: Creating the Next Generation of Scientists

Stem Cell Summer Academy: Creating the Next Generation of Scientists

Funding Type: 
Creativity Awards
Grant Number: 
TC1-05956
Approved funds: 
$183,826
Public Abstract: 
To compete in today’s global, high-tech economy, we are becoming more dependent on workers and leaders prepared in STEM fields. Engaging high school students in STEM disciplines and biomedical research is critical for our future. This proposal seeks funding to expand our high school summer internship program to include ten participants who have a specific interest in stem cell research. The program creates a dynamic and stimulating educational and research environment and inspires its participants to choose STEM careers. It consists of an enriched summer research experience, a mentorship with our faculty and scientists, and coursework to establish a framework for understanding the scientific and ethical complexities of stem cell and biomedical research. The objectives of the program parallel the CIRM goals articulated in the RFA solicitation. We seek to: (1) increase the scientific knowledge of interns; (2) increase scientific communication skills of interns; (3) teach them to think critically about the theory and application of biomedical research; and (4) encourage a diverse population of students to pursue careers in STEM fields. By providing this experience we hope to create a feeder pipeline and encourage talented students to pursue careers in stem cell research. However, those who do not become researchers will benefit by applying learned perspectives and honed professional skills to their future educational endeavors and societal responsibilities.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
To compete in today’s global, high-tech economy, the United States is becoming more dependent on workers and leaders prepared in STEM fields; however, national studies indicate that too few American students have the requisite knowledge and skills in science and mathematics to participate fully in today’s economy. The United States trails sixteen countries in Europe and Asia in the proportion of each country’s college population who earn degrees in science and engineering. This situation is only complicated by the shortage of qualified science and mathematics K-12 teachers. The need to address this issue has never been more acute. Since 1989 we have partnered with the local school districts and the county office of education to provide students and teachers with opportunities to engage in cutting-edge research. We firmly believe that the success and prosperity of our community and its citizens relies on these long-term commitments. We are in a unique position to develop programs that help increase student achievement by leveraging existing relationships and our deep connection to the community to create an innovative and scalable model for this national problem.
Progress Report: 

Year 1

With the generous support of California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Creativity Award, The Scripps Research Institute is better equipped to provide diverse high school students with the opportunity to become aware of the potential stem cells offer regenerative medicine and the ethical sensitivities they create. The eight-week Stem-Cell Academy which was folded into the High School Student Research Education Program can be divided into two over-arching, intertwined components: curriculum and research experiences. Each is made up of several activities that work together and provide a step-wise, scaffolding approach to improving interns’ critical thinking skills, scientific knowledge, communication skills, and research expertise. The interns’ experience commenced in May, when they meet on five consecutive Wednesday afternoons (Spring Tutorials) in Scripps Research’s Community Teaching Laboratory. Topics including DNA and forensics, biomolecular visualization, stem cell technology, combinatorial chemistry, and drug discovery were selected to ensure that students are exposed to cutting-edge technologies. Then the interns attend a one-week training course (Boot Camp) which started with an assessment of the students’ skill set. Students then learned the following laboratory techniques and soft skills: safety, pipetting, teamwork, gel electrophoresis, how to make solutions and dilutions, and how to keep a good lab notebook. CIRM Scholars also participated in a hands-on stem cell laboratory training course. The course began by introducing key concepts and properties of adult and embryonic stem cells; the later courses were devoted to the ethical and regulatory issues with applying stem cells in various therapies. After the interns demonstrated a proficient level of achievement in the assessment activities of the training courses, the interns interviewed with several mentors and selected a research laboratory. Immediately after boot camp, interns began conducting research in the laboratory with a mentor for seven-weeks (eight hours per day, five days per week). Together the intern and mentor crafted a research project that took the intern through the scientific process; this included research planning, bench experience, experimental design generation, data analysis and interaction with laboratory personnel. The intern worked on the project under the supervision of a graduate student, postdoctoral fellow or another member of the mentor’s lab until the intern is comfortable with the project and the laboratory setting. The intern then works independently for the remainder of the program. Interns attended weekly seminars and professional development workshops where the critical elements of the scientific method modeled in the laboratory were reinforced. Interns read current scientific articles and led discussions about the rationale behind the experiments. They also critically analyzed the work, articulated research concepts, and engaged in scientific discourse with their peers. The culminating exercise was the oral presentation of the students’ work at the Summer Intern Symposium which was open to the entire Scripps community. The presentations were approximately ten-minutes long with a three-minute question-and-answer period. The presentations are expected to include background information, significance, hypothesis/specific aims, methods and materials, data with figures and/or tables (if any), data analysis (if any), and future directions (what didn't you complete). The interns’ presentations were judged by faculty based on the following criteria: preparedness, clarity of presentation, content, and posture and eye contact. Another important part of the CIRM Academy is training the next generation of scientists to also be good educators and communicators. Whether the interns formally teach in the future, scientists need to make science interesting to others. Toward this end, CIRM scholars made videos describing their research projects. They were encouraged to be ‘creative’ and incorporate rap, popular song parodies, music, costumes, or Shakespeare-inspired poems to make the science entertaining as well as educational. The videos included a brief introduction, expected duration and cost of the experiment, safety concerns, materials, equipment, and methods and protocol.

Year 2

With the generous support of California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Creativity Award, The Scripps Research Institute is better equipped to provide diverse high school students with the opportunity to become aware of the potential stem cells offer regenerative medicine and the ethical sensitivities they create. The eight-week Stem-Cell Academy which was folded into the High School Student Research Education Program can be divided into two over-arching, intertwined components: curriculum and research experiences. Each is made up of several activities that work together and provide a step-wise, scaffolding approach to improving interns’ critical thinking skills, scientific knowledge, communication skills, and research expertise. The interns’ experience commenced in May, when they meet on five consecutive Wednesday afternoons (Spring Tutorials) in Scripps Research’s Community Teaching Laboratory. Topics including DNA and forensics, biomolecular visualization, stem cell technology, combinatorial chemistry, and drug discovery were selected to ensure that students are exposed to cutting-edge technologies. Then the interns attend a one-week training course (Boot Camp) which started with an assessment of the students’ skill set. Students then learned the following laboratory techniques and soft skills: safety, pipetting, teamwork, gel electrophoresis, how to make solutions and dilutions, and how to keep a good lab notebook. CIRM Scholars also participated in a hands-on stem cell laboratory training course. The course began by introducing key concepts and properties of adult and embryonic stem cells; the later courses were devoted to the ethical and regulatory issues with applying stem cells in various therapies. After the interns demonstrated a proficient level of achievement in the assessment activities of the training courses, the interns interviewed with several mentors and selected a research laboratory. Immediately after boot camp, interns began conducting research in the laboratory with a mentor for seven-weeks (eight hours per day, five days per week). Together the intern and mentor crafted a research project that took the intern through the scientific process; this included research planning, bench experience, experimental design generation, data analysis and interaction with laboratory personnel. The intern worked on the project under the supervision of a graduate student, postdoctoral fellow or another member of the mentor’s lab until the intern is comfortable with the project and the laboratory setting. The intern then works independently for the remainder of the program. Interns attended weekly seminars and professional development workshops where the critical elements of the scientific method modeled in the laboratory were reinforced. Interns read current scientific articles and led discussions about the rationale behind the experiments. They also critically analyzed the work, articulated research concepts, and engaged in scientific discourse with their peers. The culminating exercise was the oral presentation of the students’ work at the Summer Intern Symposium which was open to the entire Scripps community. The presentations were approximately ten-minutes long with a three-minute question-and-answer period. The presentations are expected to include background information, significance, hypothesis/specific aims, methods and materials, data with figures and/or tables (if any), data analysis (if any), and future directions (what didn't you complete). The interns’ presentations were judged by faculty based on the following criteria: preparedness, clarity of presentation, content, and posture and eye contact. Another important part of the CIRM Academy is training the next generation of scientists to also be good educators and communicators. Whether the interns formally teach in the future, scientists need to make science interesting to others. Toward this end, CIRM scholars made videos describing their research projects. They were encouraged to be ‘creative’ and incorporate rap, popular song parodies, music, costumes, Shakespeare-inspired poems, or art projects to make the science entertaining as well as educational. The videos included a brief introduction, expected duration and cost of the experiment, safety concerns, materials, equipment, and methods and protocol.

© 2013 California Institute for Regenerative Medicine