The primary goals of the Cal Poly Pomona (CPP)/Cal State Los Angeles (CSULA) Stem Cell Bridges Training Program have been: 1) to provide comprehensive training and full-time research internships for qualified students; and 2) to give other university students a basic understanding of stem cell research through development of appropriate stem cell curriculum and an opportunity to attend seminars from leading stem cell experts. Since the initiation of the grant in the summer of 2009, we have generated very strong student and faculty interest in the program by keeping the campus communities regularly informed about our program activities via our website, mass campus emails, and exposure to cutting-edge stem cell researchers from industry and academia through our seminar series. The program has allowed us to continue to offer three upper division stem cell classes at CPP and CSULA which have now enrolled approximately 200 students. We have continued to develop general education stem cell materials, such as user-friendly digital presentations, highlighting recent advances in stem cell research. Through these various activities we have stimulated on-campus discussions about the impact of stem cell research on the health of future generations.
To date, 36 students have completed their stem cell research internships in CIRM funded laboratories at City of Hope, California Institute of Technology, Scripps Research Institute, and University of Southern California. These internships have been invaluable in helping the students gain the skills they needed for pursuing their future career goals which have included entering PhD programs (8 students), MD/PhD programs (1 student), Medical (3 students) and Dental (1) programs, employment in stem cell research laboratories (9 students) and employment in non-stem cell research laboratories (3 students). The remaining students who have finished their internships are currently completing their CPP or CSULA degrees.
Of the many experiences in the CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Research Program, the interns from Cohort 5 report that the most valuable are as follows:
1. Having a one year research experience with stem cells that often involved translational research at prestigious academic institutions in southern California
2. Opportunities to learn how to use various methodologies to ask different questions and do the research needed to obtain meaningful results.
3. An understanding of research time management
4. Opportunities to interact with professional scientists and physician/scientists
5. Experience working and communicating with colleagues in a full time laboratory setting
6. Ability to work independently on a research project
7. Exposure to new laboratory procedures
8. Participation in meetings where stem cell journal articles are discussed.
9. Understanding the need to optimize experimental procedures to have reproducible results
Some of the student intern highlights from this past year include the following: 1) Raha Shirkhani was hired as a Production Specialist at Cellular Dynamics International, a CIRM funded stem cell company located in Navato, California, as a result of networking with a former Cal Poly Pomona CIRM intern
2) Grace Asuelime was hired into a position at Capricor, a CIRM funded company associated with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Caprico is currently entering Phase 2 clinical trials with a stem cell therapeutic platform for the treatment of heart disease. 3)Danilo Aurelio who was employed at a stem cell based company, Stemcyte, a cord blood therapeutics company in Covina California will enter medical school this coming fall at Medical School at Touro University in Nevada.
It is clear that this program continues to have a profound effect on the students and faculty at both campuses not only through the experiences of the student interns but also through the exposure of the campus communities to the promises of new medical treatments resulting from stem cell research.