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 a total of three upper division stem cell course at CPP (2 courses) and CSULA (1 course) which have now enrolled approximately 400 students. We have continued to develop general education stem cell materials, such as user-friendly digital presentations, summarizing recent articles about 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, 48 students have completed their stem cell research internships in CIRM funded laboratories at City of Hope, California Institute of Technology, Scripps Research Institute, University of Southern California and Western University of Health Sciences. Since our last year-end report was submitted in May 2014, 4 interns have reported being accepted to medical school (Duke University, UCSF, UC Davis and Brown University), 2 interns have been accepted into PhD programs (Cornell University and USC) and 1 intern was accepted into Physician Assistant school at Western University. These internships have been invaluable in helping the students gain the skills and knowledge they needed for pursuing their future career goals. In total, this has included entrance into PhD programs (10 students), MD/PhD programs (1 student), Medical (7 students) and Dental (1) programs, employment in stem cell research laboratories (10 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 6 report that the most valuable are as follows:
1. Learning the new techniques has made me become independent with my project and experiments.
2. Networking with people from the scientific community and learning how to use various equipment (Florescent microscope, PCR machine, FACs machine, etc) and programs (MAC operating system, adobe illustrator, BD FACs DIVA, etc). Getting over presentation anxiety.
3. A full time experience in research and how you must dictate your own pace and manage your time. You must learn how to create your own goals for each day to stay productive.
4. Learning so much about hematology- oncology, and conducting experiments.
5. Learning how a laboratory for profit works in the real world. Organization, networking and business is almost equal in priority to the actual science.
6. Knowing that although experiments do not turn out as expected, one can adapt to the challenges and learn from them.
7. Learning new techniques and learning to be more independent.
8. Being an active full time member of a research intensive laboratory really helped me solidify my decision to pursue a PhD in developmental/ stem cell biology.
9. The experience and the connections I’ve made.
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.