Our training program is an interdisciplinary Specialization in Stem Cell Research, offered within the MS degrees in Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Animal Science. Faculty from all three departments are involved in all aspects of the program. The MS specialization is a 2-year program, which includes one academic-year of coursework (three quarters) at our institution, a week-long Stem Cell Techniques Course at the Scripps Research Institute, a full-time and off-site nine-month research internship (three quarters) at a non-profit institution or for-profit company, and a one-quarter capstone project back at our institution. During this reporting period, our third cohort of 10 students completed their research internships (at Stanford University/VA Medical Center, the University of California San Diego, the Scripps Research Institute, and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies), completed their capstone projects (with faculty from Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Animal Science at our institution), and will finish their training program after presenting their work at the Trainee Meeting in mid-July. Also during this reporting period, our forth cohort of students completed the program coursework, completed the Stem Cell Techniques Course, and matched to their research internships. Finally, our fifth cohort of students has been admitted to the program and will begin coursework in the fall. The graduates of this program have strengthened the future of stem cell research in California by contributing to all aspects of the field, both directly and in-directly. Graduates of our program are directly strengthening stem cell research and regenerative medicine by performing fundamental investigations in both academic laboratories (as research associates and doctoral students) and for-profit companies, developing and manufacturing regenerative medicine products at for-profit companies, and participating in clinical-trial organization at large medical centers. Additionally, our graduates who are employed at for-profit companies in the medical device sector are indirectly benefiting the field by providing a regenerative medicine perspective to more traditional device product design and development.
Detailed Description of Training Program
Our core coursework (i.e. courses taken by students from all three departments) is laboratory intensive, and includes Principles of Tissue Engineering, Cell Transplantation and Biotherapeutics, and Introduction to Biomedical Imaging. In these courses, student learn to grow cells and tissues, evaluate native and engineered tissue structure, measure tissue function, perform microsurgery to test cell-based therapies, label cellular structures and protein, and perform all manner of advanced optical microscopy. In addition to these laboratory-intensive courses, the core coursework also includes a quarterly Stem Cell Research Seminar and a seminar-style Principles of Stem Cell Biology course. Through this coursework, students learn both the theoretical knowledge and practical skills that are important for stem cell research/regenerative medicine and gain important preparation for their internship research.
After completing their coursework, our student begin their internship with one of our partners, listed above. Our internship partners provide a wide variety of project opportunities for our students, from fundamental biological studies in an academic lab to device engineering for a combination product at a for-profit company, and encompass all of the major physiological systems- cardiovascular, neural, endocrine, musculo-skeletal, digestive, and respiratory. Over the 9-month internship, students work full-time, live away from their home institution, and do not enroll in any formal coursework, so that they can focus their efforts on the internship research.
After completing their internship, students complete their training with a capstone project at our institution. The capstone project challenges students to demonstrate their mastery of the internship research by independently transferring knowledge and skills gained during their internship to a novel project at our institution (i.e. outside their internship laboratory). Examples of previous projects include the derivation of equine (horse) induced pluripotent cells and the creation of “diseased” tissue engineered blood vessels to study stents.