Year 5

The CIRM funded California State University Long Beach (CSULB) stem cell biotechnology project has three major goals. The first is educating the public about the medical, biological, and technological advances of stem cell research and recruiting new scientists into the workforce. The second is training the students in the theory and techniques of stem cell research. The third is retaining these trainees in the California workforce by providing specialized training and laboratory internships, which will lead to long-term career opportunities in stem cell research in California.

To educate non-scientists and to increase the number of informed California citizens in the theory and potential of stem cell research, a new general education course was developed at a local community college (Irvine Valley College) as a bridge to our comprehensive university program (CSULB). At CSULB a stem cell/regenerative medicine module was added to the existing large, lower division, general education lecture course “Introduction to Human Diseases.” This may be the only life sciences course many students take in college and could initiate a life-long appreciation of the biological sciences, including stem cell technologies. Such an appreciation will have a significant impact on our society given the role of the voting population in the funding and promoting of advanced technologies.

To educate science students, two courses were developed, “Stem Cell Biology” and “Bioethics & Public Policy,” and have been integrated into the Biological Sciences curriculum. Any of the more than two thousand qualified students (meeting the course prerequisites) may enroll in these courses as part of their B.S., M.S, or Biotechnology Certificate program. The content from these courses should also be introduced to the general public as a number of the students enrolled in these classes were high school or junior high school science teachers. Undergraduate, graduate, and post‐baccalaureate certificate students who excelled in these courses, and demonstrated reliability and motivation, were encouraged to apply for the stem cell internship. Candidates were selected based on their performance in prerequisite courses, a resume, a personal statement, a letter of recommendation from their research advisor, and an interview.

The California stem cell research workforce has been enhanced by the recruitment of up to ten students each year to enter this two-year stem cell training option, which was added to the existing Biotechnology Certificate Program. The first year is training at CSULB, and the second is CIRM-funded internships at stem cell host institutions UCI or the City of Hope. Once accepted, students meet regularly with a CSULB mentor‐advisor to ensure that the training they receive is consistent with their professional goals.

In 2013-2014 academic year, the program was again full to capacity. Those students selected took a tissue culture/stem cell techniques course, which included a week of intensive stem cell training at the University of Southern California (USC). The interns were “matched” with stem cell host laboratories at City of Hope (CoH) or University of California at Irvine (UCI) where they performed their ten‐month (two semester) full‐time internships. During their internships at the host institutions, the CSULB‐CIRM interns met regularly with the internship mentor at CSULB who provided academic and professional support. The host PIs formally evaluated the students. This evaluation process included completion of assessment forms and meetings with the CSULB internship mentor during site visits. At the beginning and end of the internship period, the students evaluated their internship experience. Data from these evaluations is used to assess the students, to assess the program, and to identify areas for improvement.

Nearly one hundred percent of the students completing this program have been offered positions for further study or employment in the stem cell biotechnology workforce. Many of these students are currently employed in California as research technicians (35%), others have continued their studies in M.S. (28%) or Ph.D. programs (25%), a few are in Medical School (6%), and a few are teaching science (6%). During the internship the students were involved in a variety of projects including exploring cures for brain cancer and leukemia, treating spinal cord injury, and basic research on stem cell biology. Their research as interns has contributed to many scientific publications and clinical trials.

CSULB has a long history of successfully training large numbers of students for the California workforce and for graduate study. The CIRM Bridges to stem cell research training program integrates well with the existing programs and dramatically augments the Biotechnology Certificate Program. Moreover, it generates highly technically trained individuals who will enhance future biomedical research in California.