Year 2

The UC Santa Barbara Summer Research Mentorship Program (RMP) is the ideal learning opportunity for highly motivated Pre-College students because it excites them about scientific research. This six-week program accepts high-achieving high school students from all over the world and offers them a variety of interdisciplinary projects to chose from. Each student is given the opportunity to work directly with a UC Santa Barbara research mentor (grad student, postdoc, researcher, or faculty) who guides the student through the academic research process, techniques, and as a result prepares them to communicate confidently about their discipline in an informed and professional manner. In addition to gaining a deep relationship with their mentor and the academic benefits, the student will be submersed into University life and be networked with equally ambitious and curious peers. As such, the Creativity Grant was a perfect match for the program, particularly as UC Santa Barbara is actively involved in stem­ cell research.

Similar to the first year of the grant, UC Santa Barbara was able to identify 10 such students for receipt of a CIRM scholarship. These students do not perform the actual research, but instead, work under the tutelage of a stem­ cell scientist in helping with a component of the scientists’ research. Nine of the ten recipients were able to attend the 2013 CIRM Conference and Poster Session in San Francisco. Our survey feedback from students involved in CIRM was overwhelmingly positive, with several indicating that they believe a life of research is their future. One student in particular mentioned that “If I was an established stem cell researcher in California in 2040, I would probably look back at my CIRM Creativity Award Internship as the beginning of my path.”

“I think RMP is great way for high school students to get exposed to research and get exposed to a life in research,” said Ami Thakrar, Dos Pueblos High School junior. “It also helped me better understand what I want to do with my future. And I think it did the same for many of my peers.” Ms. Thakrar represented UC Santa Barbara at the CIRM Conference this year. We had several parents and general audience members come up to us and tell us how impressed they were with her presentation skills. We truly believe that this fellowship helped mold and groom these students for a future in scientific research and we will not be surprised if the majority of them keep doing research in the stem cell field.

All of our students are in still in contact with their mentors and many of them are working on expanding their interest in stem­ cell research, wishing to continue presenting about their CIRM/RMP experience. There is little doubt that RMP and the CIRM Creativity Award sparked our students’ passion for scientific discovery. We have several students who have applied to participate in local and national competitions. The Research Mentorship Program will be following these students progress as they enter university in the next two years, to discover their chosen university as well as the majors they’ve selected.