Bridges to Stem Cell Research at Pasadena City College is a stem cell training program funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state stem cell agency. The program offers exciting new research, educational, and training opportunities to biotechnology students at Pasadena City College (PCC). Program participants have an opportunity to perform a research internship and are eligible for coursework, educational enhancement activities, and training related to stem cell biology. The program has produced highly qualified lab personnel for stem cell research in both academic and industry settings throughout California.
Qualifying students selected for the CIRM Bridges Internship Program at PCC participate in a one-year paid internship in a world-class laboratory performing stem cell research at one of three local renowned research institutes: the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the University of Southern California, and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. The program offer trainees research opportunities with mentors in fields ranging from basic science of stem cells to translational research in regenerative medicine. In addition, selected students are eligible for coursework and educational enhancement activities related to stem cell biology, including a stem cell techniques course at a CIRM-funded Shared Research Laboratory. The training prepares CIRM Bridges interns to work at various levels in stem cell research labs including laboratory assistant, lab manager, professional staff, and research associate, or to continue on to postgraduate programs.
Educational enhancement activities that prepare students for the internships and enhance the internship experience include: seminars and symposia (intellectual property and confidentiality issues, Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, bioethics, and stem cell career opportunities); Stem Cell Seminar Series at PCC hosted by CIRM Bridges interns; and specialized workshops (data management, bioinformatics, scientific writing and presentations, and graduate school applications). PCC has also added the following courses: advanced stem cell techniques course taught in collaboration with Caltech; fluorescent cell techniques and microscopy; and a Stem Cell Journal Club.
CIRM Bridges interns also participate in community and high school outreach activities. Interns visit local high schools to give presentations on stem cell research and help host a Stem Cell Training Workshop at PCC for the participating high school teachers and selected high school students. A portable Stem Cell Demonstration Laboratory for High School Students extends the outreach activities by providing stem cell training directly in the classrooms of participating teachers so that additional students have an opportunity to work with stem cells in an interactive way to encourage more students to become involved in stem cell research. In addition, teaching modules in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine were developed and delivered to the general student population at PCC in several general education and biology-related courses.
Engaging in long-term academic research projects in laboratories performing stem cell research as well as related training activities has prepared the interns for research and career opportunities in the fields of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. After participation in the internship program, students have accepted research positions in academia and the biotechnology industry; prepared to transfer to four-year universities to continue their education; and been accepted into graduate or professional programs.
The bridge formed between Pasadena City College and institutions engaged in stem cell research and regenerative medicine adds immeasurable value to the PCC Biological Technology Certificate Program. PCC has offered certificates in Biological Technology since 1999 and a Certificate of Achievement in Stem Cell Culture since 2005. Students who enroll in the PCC Biotechnology Program have diverse educational backgrounds ranging from no college experience to advanced degrees. More than 50% of the students who join the Biotechnology Program at PCC have already earned a Bachelor’s degree and are seeking additional training to secure employment or enter graduate and professional schools.
The students participating in the CIRM Bridges Internship Program represent the diversity of California’s population. Applicants are drawn from a pool of students in the Biotechnology Program at PCC and the general PCC student body which includes approximately 76% minority students, 45% low-income students, and 47% first-generation students.
The CIRM-funded stem cell training program: Bridges to Stem Cell Research at Pasadena City College brings advanced stem cell training and research experience to PCC biotechnology students and brings the laboratory skills and diversity of PCC students to the California stem cell workforce.