High school students get creative in California stem cell labs

Smarts, education and hard work will get you far, but the big leaps in science take something more — creativity. That’s the thinking behind an innovative CIRM-funded summer program that encourages the most creative high school students to spend time working in a stem cell lab.

The CIRM Creativity Awards recipients are meeting in Oakland today to share results of their internship programs. Each student combined stem cells and one other discipline — engineering, chemistry, social sciences, ethics, music or other academic fields — into a summer internship.

This year’s pilot program sent high school students to work in labs at Stanford and at University of California campuses in San Francisco, Davis and Santa Barbara. One student from each school was nominated to give a short talk about their research during today’s meeting.

CIRM has worked to create a pipeline of stem cell expertise in California by funding young faculty, graduate students, masters and undergraduate students, ensuring that California has the scientific talent to fill biotech jobs and create the next generation of stem cell therapies. This high school program reaches even further down that pipeline, making sure promising high school students get the experience they need to go to college and earn science degrees.

This program is CIRM’s second to reach high school students. Last year we released a high school curriculum that teachers can download and use to teach students about stem cell research. Those modules are here.

CIRM President Alan Trounson has been especially supportive of this program. Trounson was among the first to succeed with in vitro fertilization and believes that innovation and creativity are key to developing new therapies. When CIRM first announced this program he said:

“These Creativity Awards encourage smart young people in California to bring fresh ideas into the stem cell research field,” said Alan Trounson, CIRM President. “We are not only supporting the next generation of stem cell scientists, we are promoting the kind of innovative thinking that leads to novel breakthroughs in science.”

We’ll be releasing videos in the upcoming weeks of talks by these students and an overview of the program.