As a recipient of a CIRM bridges Award, Berkeley City College has been able to upgrade the training for students enrolled in the biotechnology classes and to offer special training in stem cell biology for selected students. The training in biotechnology includes coursework and laboratory experimentation in molecular genetics, immunology, protein chemistry, tissue culture, advanced techniques and instrumentation. Students pursuing the Certificate in Stem Cell Biology first complete the above laboratory courses along with courses in bioethics and scientific writing, attend a weeklong intensive training in handling stem cells offered by the University of California, San Francisco, and complete a nine month paid internship in one of several universities and institutes in the Bay Area. Students are expected to complete an independent research project during their internship and present a poster at the CIRM Bridges Scientific Meeting.
Thus far 17 students have completed internships, 2 students are in progress and 3 others are just starting. Of these 22 students, 10 intend to pursue graduate level research in some aspect of stem cell biology or regenerative medicine, 7 are pursuing careers in medicine, clinical science or an allied health field, 2 are pursuing careers in pharmacy and pharmaceutical research, and 3 are seeking positions as technicians in molecular based research labs. Two of the students have published papers in scientific journals of their CIRM funded research and several others will be included as authors in future publications. Students served by the Bridges award come from a broad range of educational backgrounds, ethnicities and ages. Some students are re-tooling following either the loss of a job or graduation from college with a desire to re-focus their training and education, while others are completing their first two years of college with plans to continue to a 4-year institution.
CIRM interns have the opportunity to share their experiences with other students enrolled in science classes at Berkeley City College, as well as students enrolled in the biotechnology program, and this not only generates much enthusiasm among fellow students, but also contributes to public awareness of the on-going research in stem cell fields. The CIRM Bridges award has also given Berkeley City College the opportunity to launch a Science Seminar Series that highlights work conducted by scientists in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine along with scientists conducting research in other fields. The seminar series has been a resounding success attracting both high school and college students, as well as members of the community. The seminars have served to heighten the awareness of the importance of STEM fields, the future of medicine and medical treatments, and the importance of supporting stem cell research in California.