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, stem cell biology, instrumentation, advanced methodologies, 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 39 students have completed internships and 6 students are in progress. Of the students who have completed their internships, 19 are presently employed in industry or research labs as technicians or lab managers, 8 are enrolled in graduate or professional schools of medicine, pharmacy or nursing and another 5 are in the process of applying to graduate or medical schools. The remaining 7 students are completing baccalaureate degrees with plans to pursue either graduate level research in some aspect of stem cell biology or regenerative medicine, or careers in professional schools in medically related fields. Three 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 Bridges award come from a broad range of educational backgrounds, ethnicities and ages. Approximately 70% of the CIRM interns have baccalaureate degrees prior to earning an Associate of Science in Biotechnology. Most of the degrees earned by the students are in STEM related fields, but a few CIRM interns start their college careers in fields such as the Arts, Business and English. The remaining 30% of students are either recent high school graduates with plans to proceed to 4 year colleges, or older adults re-tooling for a career in the sciences following either the loss of a job or discharge from the military, e.g. a recent intern is a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps. The demographics of the interns are diverse with 31% white, 29% Asian, 11% Latino, 7% African American and 22% from multiple races. A number of interns come from families who are recent immigrants to the United States and are the first in their families to attend college, and a few of the interns are international students and recently arrived to the United States. Berkeley City College is committed to ensuring that students from all backgrounds and ethnicities have the opportunity to succeed in STEM fields. A vigorous outreach and recruitment program has been created to attract a broad range of students, particularly individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups in the sciences, e.g. minorities and women. Coupled with recruitment, the science department has created a number of focused activities such as boot camps and study workshops that provide critical support to students to ensure their success.
Students who have completed a CIRM internship have many opportunities to share their experiences with other students and members of the community. All interns give short introductions to themselves and their research during Science Orientation Days at the start of the semesters in order to generate enthusiasm among prospective students. The interns are also asked to give short seminars of their work in the biotechnology classes, participate in the Science Luncheon Seminar Series that is open to all students, and visit local high schools to discuss their experiences both in the biotechnology program and their CIRM internship. CIRM scientific posters are hung in the Science Department Hallway for the enjoyment of all students and members of the community. The science department has a website devoted to the CIRM interns and their research.
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.