Developing High School Students’ Research Practices and Regenerative Medicine Knowledge through a Summer Intern Program

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Developing High School Students' Research Practices and Regenerative Medicine Knowledge through a Summer Intern Program

Public Abstract:
Through this training program, 50 high school students from backgrounds underrepresented in the sciences will pursue summer research projects in stem cell biology at a major research university. Students will spend the bulk of their summer conducting research under the guidance of a mentor scientist. To prepare them for success in the program, they will begin the summer with a 2-day short course. This short course will help students feel confident entering and navigating the laboratory environment. Students will meet weekly throughout the summer with their peers and program staff to build community and learn to: 1) successfully apply to college and for financial aid (a well-documented barrier that limits the educational achievement of students from backgrounds underrepresented in the sciences), 2) communicate in writing about their research, and 3) give a poster presentation and a scientific talk. Students will also participate in patient engagement activities, including learning about pediatric oncology and supporting a local blood drive. They will do community outreach work such as writing blog entries about their experience as an intern and posting photos on Instagram of their work in the lab.

Longitudinal studies of alumni from this program demonstrate that they pursue higher education and careers in the sciences in numbers that greatly exceed their demographically-matched peers. Thus, we are confident that many of these 50 students will continue working in stem cell research or related fields. Irrespective of their career choices, all CIRM-funded alumni will build their lab skills, learn research practices, and understand the importance of stem cell research and accelerating stem cell therapies to patients with unmet medical needs, thereby becoming "stem cell ambassadors" who can help others in California understand this work and advocate for continued funding.
Statement of Benefit to California:
This proposed project will further the educational and scientific careers of high school students from backgrounds underrepresented in the sciences. It will also help research scientists learn how to mentor students from backgrounds different from their own; thereby equipping these researchers to be more effective mentors and serve California’s students. With this two-pronged approach, this work will increase scientists’ abilities to educate lay audiences about their research, and will both diversify and build the life science workforce in California. Diversifying the scientific field is of critical importance to the state of California and its citizens for several reasons. First, a more diverse biomedical workforce has been repeatedly cited as a mechanism for addressing disparities in health and healthcare; second, shortages in the life science workforce from technicians to advanced scientists are predicted in California; and, third, the annual wages in STEM fields greatly exceed the national averages in other fields, providing economic stability and the potential for upward mobility for the low-income, minority, and immigrant students who participate in this program. This program will help California citizens become a part of the STEM workforce. We will deepen scientist mentors' abilities and help high school students realize their academic potential – resulting in their matriculation to college, completion of their undergraduate education, and ultimately, enabling them to pursue careers in the sciences.