Public school classrooms are often strapped for resources, with ill-fitted lab equipment and a lackluster science curriculum, and teachers often struggle to provide interactive science opportunities for their students. Our scientists believe a highly skilled workforce benefits the state of California and that underprivileged students deserve to be part of the exciting field of stem cell research. So, in 2008 we created a summer internship experience for public high school students in our laboratories in an effort to increase the number of underrepresented students who pursue undergraduate and graduate science degrees and to expand the diversity of biomedical researchers.
Each summer, six rising high school seniors are selected to work with a mentor in our labs spending 75% of their time conducting biomedical research and 25% of their time in supplementary educational activities. Their work culminates in a final poster session in which students describe their work, hypothesis and findings to our scientific community.
CIRM funding will allow us to ensure that two of our six interns specialize specifically in stem cell biology. Our interns will be able to learn methods for enhancing cell-fate commitment and analyses to determine genetic variation on cellular maturation and survival. Our institution has a robust stem cell biology research program, and our scientists are enthusiastic about sharing their passion for this science with our high school interns.
We believe that it is important for the state of California to invest in training and employing its local residents. Many scientific institutions and biotech companies recruit foreign scientists to fill positions in their laboratories. Our summer internship program for local public school students aims to tackle this discrepancy by training the next generation of biomedical researchers. Each summer, rising seniors in local public high schools are placed into 8-week internships in our laboratories. Our interns are exposed to the lab environment, trained in basic lab techniques, and are better prepared to pursue an array of opportunities within the biotech field. While the PhD path to science is definitely laid out for our interns, they are also introduced to the many high paying jobs in biomedical research that do not require a doctorate degree; such as lab aides, lab managers, and research technologists. The ultimate goal of our high school summer internship program is to increase the number of underrepresented students who pursue undergraduate and graduate science degrees, thereby expanding the pool of diverse biomedical researchers.
Reviewers considered this to be a good proposal with a well-developed recruitment process specifically aimed at underrepresented students. Reviewers noted the excellent program leadership including a Program Director with considerable experience in outreach and high school internship programs. The applicant institution has a number of excellent stem cell biologists and ample labs and mentors to host the interns. Reviewers expressed concern that there was inadequate information about the type and scope of activities students would participate in during their internships. Reviewers also were critical of the lack of sufficient details about the second discipline and its associated activities. However, there was broad agreement that this program would extremely valuable to participants, given the high caliber of stem cell research and training it will provide.
Overall, reviewers found this to be a worthwhile program which, despite deficiencies in the proposal, would greatly benefit the student participants.
- A motion was made to recommend this application for funding. The motion carried.