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 in molecular genetics, immunology, protein chemistry, tissue culture, instrumentation, advanced techniques, bioethics and scientific writing. Students pursuing the Certificate in Stem Cell Biology attend a weeklong intensive training in handling stem cells offered by the University of California, San Francisco, and complete a ten month paid internship in one of several universities and research 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 29 students have either completed or are near completion with their internships. Of these students, 12 are presently employed in research labs as technicians or lab managers, 5 are presently enrolled in graduate or professional schools of medicine and pharmacy, and the rest intend to pursue either graduate level research in some aspect of stem cell biology or regenerative medicine, or careers in medicine, pharmacy, clinical science or an allied health field. 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 CIRM Bridges award come from a broad range of educational, social and cultural backgrounds and range in age from early twenties to mid-fifties. Almost a third of the students are just completing their first two years of college as science majors with plans to continue to a 4-year institution, while another third have been science majors in college but, for assorted reasons, did not get from their undergraduate training the expertise they need to compete effectively in the workplace. The remaining third are ‘re-tooling’ following either the loss of a job or the desire to enter a new field of study. Most of these latter students have either completed some college level coursework or they have completed college degrees in non-science related fields.
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 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.