Collaborative CIRM Bridges Program to Enhance Stem Cell Research Training and Education
Two Bacchalaureate/Masters (BS/MS) universities will collaborate in the development of a quality stem cell education program. Stem cell research has the potential for changing medical practice and improving health care. To help achieve this and maintain government and public support for stem cell research, stem cell education needs to be accessible to all university students, since some students will become an integral part of the stem cell workforce and many others will make up the large body of future governing officials and voting voices. The program goals will be 1) to provide comprehensive stem cell training and research opportunities for qualified students and 2) to give our large, ethnically diverse student populations, a basic understanding of stem cell research. The program will provide stem cell research internships for qualified BS and MS students. Curriculum will be developed to introduce the concepts and promises of stem cell research into both life science major and non-major courses. To impact the larger student population, a 1-2 hour module in both conventional and online formats for the Introductory Biology courses will be developed. Ten students/year (3 BS, and 2 MS, from each campus) will be selected for the stem cell internships (6 months for BS, 12 months for MS) in one of several research-intensive host institutions. Prospective students will take upper division courses to obtain 1) an understanding of the principles of molecular and cellular biology, 2) familiarity with molecular manipulation techniques, and 3) experience with basic cell culture techniques. Following their acceptance as interns, students can elect to take a 10-week Stem Cell Biology lecture/laboratory course at one of the BS/MS universities. This course will be taught by a stem cell biologist and will give the students a better understanding of stem cell research. All interns will also participate in a 1-week Stem Cell Techniques Training course at a CIRM Shared Research Laboratory prior to starting their internships. Upon completion of their internships, students will give talks on their research to the campus communities. There will also be two guest stem cell seminars/Quarter to give other faculty and students the opportunity to become familiar with ongoing stem cell research. We anticipate that students completing this program will be highly trained in stem cell research and ready to enter the stem cell workforce or to continue with their stem cell education as part of an advanced degree. The two BS/MS universities will pool faculty expertise and years of experience in curriculum development, student mentoring, research training and career guidance to provide outstanding opportunities for the students to learn more about stem cells. With our large student populations, including many under-represented minority students, we will be able to develop a successful program to help advance stem cell research in California.
Stem cell research has the potential to improve the health care of all Californians. To achieve this goal and maintain state government and public support in California for stem cell research, stem cell education needs to be made accessible to all California university students since some of them will become part of the stem cell workforce and many others will make up the large body of future governing officials and voting voices of California. Two Bacchalaureate/Master's degree universities will collaborate in the development of a stem cell program to do this. To prepare students to enter the California stem cell workforce, we will provide research internship opportunities at major research-intensive institutions for qualified undergraduate and Master's degree students. Since our large pool of candidates includes many under-represented minority students, the program will make a significant contribution to the training and diversity of California's future stem cell research workforce. To give the large, ethnically diverse California student population a basic understanding of stem cell research, stem cell curriculum for both life science majors and non-majors will also be developed. An online stem cell module will be included in the curriculum development to ensure dissemination of the program to the wider population. By including a large number of students in our program, we hope to enhance the general public's awareness of the continuing progress in stem cell research and therefore help the public in their future decision-making on supporting stem cell research.
The primary goals of the CPP/CSULA Stem Cell Bridges Training Program have been: 1) to provide comprehensive training and full-time research internships for qualified students; and 2) to give other students a basic understanding of stem cell research through development of appropriate General Education curriculum.. Since the initiation of the grant (summer 2009), we have generated very strong student and faculty interest in the program by keeping the campus communities regularly informed about our program activities via our website, mass emails to the campus communities, informational meetings and development of stem cell curriculum. To date, 26 students have completed their stem cell research internships at City of Hope, California Institute of Technology, Scripps Research Institute, University of Southern California and Western University of Health Sciences in laboratories supported by CIRM funding. These internships have been invaluable in helping the students in their future career paths. Five students have been hired as research assistants in the same CIRM stem cell labs in which they had done their stem cell internships (City of Hope, USC, Scripps and Cal Tech). Another intern is working at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in stem cell research and another intern has been working as the Laboratory and Training Coordinator for the USC Stem Cell CORE Facility in which this student had done a stem cell internship. Five students are completing their Master’s degrees with a thesis focus on stem cell research. One student has completed a Master’s degree in stem cell research and is working as a Junior Chemist at Metropolitan Water District. Another student who completed a Master’s degree in stem cell research is now working at California Stem Cell Inc. (Irvine, California) in the manufacturing division. One undergraduate student is completing her Bachelor’s Project on stem cell research and is planning on applying to PhD programs. Four interns have been accepted to PhD Programs and will begin their studies in the Fall of 2013. A former intern is now in Medical school and another will start Medical School in Fall of 2013 while a third intern is in Dental School. Success of the CIRM Program for these students is evident in their personal statements, examples of which are as follows:
"I will be forever grateful for the opportunity each of you have allowed me. "
"I believe my acceptance to medical school was greatly in part due to my involvement with CIRM. It proved to the admissions committee that I was a dedicated and passionate person and ultimately made a lasting impression on them. I'm very fortunate and grateful for the opportunity granted to me by Cal Poly Pomona and CIRM."
"I really appreciate that CIRM gave me this wonderful opportunity."
"Neither of these degrees (MS and PhD) are ones that I would have considered had it not been for my experience with the CIRM Bridges Program, which exposed me to research"
" I am glad that CIRM gave me the opportunity and connection to continue my career with stem cells."
The impact of the CIRM Program has extended beyond the student interns to the faculty, staff and students at CPP and CSULA through the 1) campus wide seminar programs (6 per year) 2) the development of 3 upper division stem cell classes which enrolled approximately 95 students for which critical supplies were provided by CPP/CSULA CIRM funding, 3) development of a general education video module explaining the basics of stem cell research and 4) in the creation of an artistic collaboration between the PI and the dance professor at CPP which resulted in the dance entitled, “Exploring Stem Cells Through Dance”. This dance premiered at the statewide CSUPERB Student/Faculty 25th Annual Biotechnology Research Symposium, and has been digitally recorded and edited to be viewed by the general public on our CIRM Program website. It is clear that the whole Cal Poly Pomona/CSULA program has had a profound effect on the lives of the students and faculty at both campuses and will continue to do so in the future as the students progress in their careers and the faculty continue to incorporate stem cell curriculum into the courses that they teach.
The primary goals of the Cal Poly Pomona (CPP)/Cal State Los Angeles (CSULA) Stem Cell Bridges Training Program have been: 1) to provide comprehensive training and full-time research internships for qualified students; and 2) to give other university students a basic understanding of stem cell research through development of appropriate stem cell curriculum and an opportunity to attend seminars from leading stem cell experts. Since the initiation of the grant in the summer of 2009, we have generated very strong student and faculty interest in the program by keeping the campus communities regularly informed about our program activities via our website, mass campus emails, and exposure to cutting-edge stem cell researchers from industry and academia through our seminar series. The program has allowed us to continue to offer three upper division stem cell classes at CPP and CSULA which have now enrolled approximately 200 students. We have continued to develop general education stem cell materials, such as user-friendly digital presentations, highlighting recent advances in stem cell research. Through these various activities we have stimulated on-campus discussions about the impact of stem cell research on the health of future generations.
To date, 36 students have completed their stem cell research internships in CIRM funded laboratories at City of Hope, California Institute of Technology, Scripps Research Institute, and University of Southern California. These internships have been invaluable in helping the students gain the skills they needed for pursuing their future career goals which have included entering PhD programs (8 students), MD/PhD programs (1 student), Medical (3 students) and Dental (1) programs, employment in stem cell research laboratories (9 students) and employment in non-stem cell research laboratories (3 students). The remaining students who have finished their internships are currently completing their CPP or CSULA degrees.
Of the many experiences in the CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Research Program, the interns from Cohort 5 report that the most valuable are as follows:
1. Having a one year research experience with stem cells that often involved translational research at prestigious academic institutions in southern California
2. Opportunities to learn how to use various methodologies to ask different questions and do the research needed to obtain meaningful results.
3. An understanding of research time management
4. Opportunities to interact with professional scientists and physician/scientists
5. Experience working and communicating with colleagues in a full time laboratory setting
6. Ability to work independently on a research project
7. Exposure to new laboratory procedures
8. Participation in meetings where stem cell journal articles are discussed.
9. Understanding the need to optimize experimental procedures to have reproducible results
Some of the student intern highlights from this past year include the following: 1) Raha Shirkhani was hired as a Production Specialist at Cellular Dynamics International, a CIRM funded stem cell company located in Navato, California, as a result of networking with a former Cal Poly Pomona CIRM intern
2) Grace Asuelime was hired into a position at Capricor, a CIRM funded company associated with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Caprico is currently entering Phase 2 clinical trials with a stem cell therapeutic platform for the treatment of heart disease. 3)Danilo Aurelio who was employed at a stem cell based company, Stemcyte, a cord blood therapeutics company in Covina California will enter medical school this coming fall at Medical School at Touro University in Nevada.
It is clear that this program continues to have a profound effect on the students and faculty at both campuses not only through the experiences of the student interns but also through the exposure of the campus communities to the promises of new medical treatments resulting from stem cell research.