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 involving work with stem cells, 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 45 students have completed CIRM internships. Of the students who have completed their internships, 19 are presently employed in industry or research labs as technicians or lab managers, 12 are presently enrolled in graduate or professional schools of medicine, pharmacy, nursing or clinical lab science, and another 4 are in the process of applying to graduate or medical schools. The remaining 10 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. A number 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 two-thirds 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 the sciences, but a few CIRM interns start their college careers in the Arts, Business and English. The remaining third of students are either recent high school graduates with plans to proceed to 4 year colleges, or older adults re-tooling following the loss of a job and a desire to participate in a science-based career. 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 or recently arrived to the United States.
CIRM interns have many opportunities to share their experiences with other students and members of the community. All 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. One of the guest speakers this past spring was Dr. Jennifer Doudna who gave a lecture on CRISPR to a standing room only audience. 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.