We are proposing a certificate program in stem cell biology research and regenerative medicine at our institution. Our objective is to train up to 30 students from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic background in the modern aspects of stem cell biology, it implications in regenerative medicine, and social and ethical issues in the use of stem cell technology. Specifically, the program will have two components. Students from our university will take the courses we offer in cellular and molecular biology. They will also complete at least one semester of independent research, which will enhance their training in experimental research design, basic methods, and good laboratory practices. The next phase of the program will require training in embryonic stem cell laboratory techniques at either [REDACTED] or [REDACTED], our “host” institutions. Up to ten undergraduates/year for three years will be selected to participate in a 12 month research internship at either [REDACTED] or at [REDACTED]. In preparation for these internships, trainees must show outstanding achievement in cellular and molecular biology coursework and aptitude in laboratory skills required to perform state of the art research techniques required in stem cell research. A general education course in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine will be developed and offered to nonscience majors at our campus and at our local community college. A seminar series featuring researchers in the field from each host institution will be offered to our students and to the local medical community We will offer a weekend workshop in stem cell biology and research to biology educators in our community. Our efforts will help create a diverse, highly qualified work force in stem cell biology and an educated public prepared to benefit from the research our trainees contribute to.
Human embryonic stem cell biology has become an important component of biotechnology research. Scientists have predicted stem cells could be used to treat a myriad of ailments, including diabetes, neurological disorders, and multiple kinds of cancers. California has demonstrated support for this research by passing Proposition 71 to fund the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). Because of CIRM, cutting edge stem cell research is taking place in California. This research requires highly competent technicians and researchers to perform the laboratory work. Our program is designed to provide California students from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds with comprehensive training in the modern aspects of stem cell biology, it implications in regenerative medicine, and social and ethical issues in the use of stem cell technology. Upon completion of coursework in genetics, cell biology, developmental biology, and stem cell laboratory methods, students will complete their training at at one of two "host" stem cell research centers: [REDACTED or at [REDACTED]. They will begin their training at these sites by taking a course in human embryonic stem cell research techniques. After completion of this course, they will participate in a 12 month research internship in a stem cell biology research laboratory. In addition to training students for careers in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, we will increase the awareness of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine in our community by offering general education courses for non-science majors, by providing seminars, workshops, and grand rounds to local educators and medical professionals, and by sending our students into local high school classrooms to talk with students about stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. Our efforts will help create a diverse, highly qualified work force in stem cell biology and an educated public prepared to benefit from the research our trainees contribute to.
The proposal is to establish a stem cell research and regenerative medicine certificate program that will train up to 30 undergraduate students (10 students per year over three years) from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds in stem cell biology in collaboration with two major California institutions. The first phase of the program will consist of two components: coursework in cellular and molecular biology and stem cell laboratory methods and at least one semester of independent research at the home institution. The faculty will select students for internships based on their performance in this first phase of the program. These students will then take a laboratory course in human embryonic stem cell techniques and conduct research during a 12-month internship at either of two host institutions. Upon completion of the internship training, students will return to the parent institution and formally present the research they conducted during their internship. The home institution further plans to promote stem cell research and regenerative medicine by developing a general education course on stem cell research with a local community college and by implementing seminar series on stem cell biology for trainees, the campus community and local medical professionals. In addition, a stem cell biology workshop for local secondary school biology educators is proposed.
Reviewers were very enthusiastic this proposal. They considered the preparation of students for the internship to be excellent, and the internship opportunities to be outstanding. The reviewers also considered the proposed plan of the home institution to provide awareness of stem cell research to the local community through a general education course, seminars and workshops to be an interesting and unique aspect of this proposal.
Reviewers considered an important strength of this program to be the preparation of the students for the internship by providing relevant course work and laboratory experience in stem cell research and by requiring one semester of independent research prior to applying for the internship. They believed that this should allow the program to select students who have a very good chance of succeeding during the internship at the host institution. Reviewers considered the internship opportunities at the host institutions to be outstanding. One reviewer expressed concerns about the challenges imposed by the distances between the home institution and the host institutions but another reviewer pointed out that the program requested funding to help with living and transportation.
The reviewers considered the home institutional commitment to be strong and noted that the home institution has committed funds to renovate their current stem cell facility for use with human embryonic stem cells. They also commented that the home institution has a strong track record of training in cell biology and molecular biology. Partnering arrangements with each of the internship-host institutions have been developed as evidenced by the strong letters of commitment from each. One reviewer noted that although several letters from the outreach community college partner are included in the proposal, none are from upper level administrators. Thus, although the partnering relationship with this institution is probably strong, there is no evidence it has institutional support.
The review panel found the Program Director to be exceptionally well qualified to administer the program with extensive experience in the administration of large undergraduate programs. The advisory committee includes individuals directly involved in the program (both at home and host sites) as well as top home institution administrators, including the president. Some concern was expressed over a single annual advisory committee meeting. Mentoring of the interns appears robust, involving collaboration between faculty at both the home and the host institutions. Reviewers described the recruitment plan as well defined and likely to include under-represented minorities but noted that program lacks tracking of the students following completion of the program.
Overall reviewers were very enthusiastic about this program.