In 2012 we hosted 8 California High School Students in the Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy who were funded as CIRM Creativity students. The number of CIRM Creativity applicants for our program was impressive; we received 417 (out of a total of 1242). The core component of our program is the opportunity for students to plan and execute their own research project, interacting with their mentors, other personnel in their research group and each with each other. The summer students join the broader research community at City of Hope, spanning 12 basic science and clinical departments, including: Biology, Molecular Biology, Neurosciences, Immunology, Hematology/HCT, Virology, and Diabetes/Endocrinology for 10 weeks.
In addition to laboratory research we have a structured program of activities. Students meet weekly to hear presentations from each other, this is a key learning experience for those who are brave enough to meet this challenge. We organize several additional meetings where a City of Hope physician or scientist talks about their research projects and have one of the physicians describe their training and career path and answer student questions (in 2012 Lily Lai M.D and H. Teresa Ku, Ph.D spoke). Students also present their work at a campus wide poster session and the best ones are encouraged to participate in the Southern California Undergraduate Research Conference. All students are required to submit a final written research report. The program also hosts a barbeque with music, games and prizes, and a student banquet to facilitate a sense of community among students.
We run a Distinguished Seminar Series designed specifically for our students, inviting world class scientists, science educators or science writers make a presentation followed by a luncheon with selected groups of students. Every student is given the opportunity to meet one speaker. In 2012 we had 9 speakers; 4 of whom spoke on stem cells and one who spoke on her ability to combine science and music (another creative addition to the program). The stem cell related talks were:
•April Pyle, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of California Los Angeles;“Balancing Pluripotency and Stability in Human Embryonic Stem Cells”.
•Arlene Chiu, Ph.D., Director and Professor-In-Residence in the Office of Research New Initiatives at City of Hope;“The Stem Cell Debate”.
•Elaine Bearer, B.M., M.A, M.D., Ph.D., Professor in both music and neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico. Also a visiting Professor at California Institute of Technology;“Music and Mind: A Scientist-Composer’s quest for the biological basis of musical experience”.
•Rachael Mooney, Ph.D., postdoctoral and CIRM Scholar in the Department of Neurosciences at City of Hope;“Use of Neural Stem Cells to Improve Nanoparticle Delivery to Brain Tumors”.
•Miss. Marisa Bowers, B.A., graduate student at the Irell & Manella School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope and CIRM Scholar;“The Role of the Microenvironment in Leukemic Stem Cell Maintenance and Survival”.
In addition to these traditional Summer Academy activities the Creativity students were given additional creative assignments. They attended two workshops; one on marketing pharmaceuticals to show the students the more practical side of science. The second was on enhancing their creativity by participating in exercises to inspire their creative processes. This session was exceptionally well received as it allowed the students to get to know each other more as they opened up about themselves.
There were also three field trips:
•The Los Angeles Natural History Museum with a private tour of the dinosaur hall.
•Griffith Park Observatory with a planetarium show.
•A trip to Owl Biomedical in Santa Barbara. The founder and CEO, Dr. John Foster, gave students a personal tour of the facility, described the company and the unique machines they design, and had lunch with us all. This was the students’ favorite field trip. Dr. Foster shared his unique journey and what being an entrepreneur is like. He described beginning two companies and how to file for a patent. The students found him to be incredibly inspirational and Dr. Foster agreed to host our CIRM students in future.
To encourage creativity we also asked the students to write a music parody. They chose “Broken Hearted” by Karmin and rewrote the lyrics to communicate their enthusiasm for stem cell research. They designed the choreography with our CIRM teaching assistant, produced an exciting video which can now be viewed online (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiMfTEnZdNg ).
The Summer Academy has been an integral part of the City of Hope education mission for over 51 years. The addition of CIRM creativity students has allowed us to grow in new and unexpected directions.