Year 7/NCE

Bridges to Stem Cell Research at Pasadena City College is a stem cell training program funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the state’s stem cell agency. The program offers exceptional research, educational, and training opportunities to biotechnology students at Pasadena City College (PCC). Program participants have an opportunity to perform a research internship and are eligible for coursework, educational enhancement activities, and training related to stem cell biology. They also take part in community outreach activities that increase awareness of stem cell research among high school students in diverse communities. Now in its seventh year, the program has produced highly qualified lab personnel for stem cell research in both academic and industry settings.

Qualifying students selected for the CIRM Bridges Internship Program at PCC participate in a one-year paid internship in a world-class laboratory performing stem cell research. Internship sites include three local renowned research institutes: the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the University of Southern California, and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The program offers trainees research opportunities with more than 40 mentors in fields ranging from basic science of stem cells to translational research in regenerative medicine. Selected students are also eligible for coursework and educational enhancement activities related to stem cell biology, including a stem cell techniques course at a CIRM-funded Shared Research Laboratory.

Educational enhancement activities that prepare students for the internships and enhance their internship experience include: seminars and symposia (intellectual property and confidentiality issues, stem cells and regenerative medicine, bioethics, and stem cell career opportunities); Stem Cell Seminar Series at PCC hosted by CIRM Bridges interns; and specialized workshops (data management, bioinformatics, scientific writing and presentations, and graduate school applications). PCC has also added courses in: advanced stem cell techniques (taught in collaboration with Caltech); fluorescent cell techniques and microscopy; and a Stem Cell Journal Club.

CIRM Bridges interns also participate in community and high school outreach activities. Interns visit local high schools to give presentations on stem cell research and host a Stem Cell Training Workshop at PCC for participating high school teachers and selected high school students. A portable Stem Cell Demonstration Laboratory for High School Students extends outreach activities by providing stem cell training in the classrooms of participating teachers. Thus, additional students can work with stem cells in an interactive way and are encouraged to become involved in stem cell research. The outreach program has produced a further benefit, namely the development of teaching modules in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine. The modules have been delivered to the general student population at PCC in both general education and biology-related courses.

The bridge formed between PCC and institutions engaged in stem cell research and regenerative medicine adds immeasurable value to the PCC Biological Technology Certificate Program. PCC has offered certificates in Biological Technology since 1999 and a Certificate of Achievement in Stem Cell Culture since 2005. Students who join the PCC Biotechnology Program represent the diversity of California’s workforce, including: first generation college students, individuals pursuing a second career, women re-entering the workforce, displaced workers, and veterans. They have varied educational backgrounds ranging from no college experience to advanced degrees. More than half of the students who enroll in the Biotechnology Program have already earned a Bachelor’s degree and are seeking additional training to secure employment or enter graduate and professional schools. Individuals selected for the CIRM Bridges Internship Program are drawn from a diverse pool of students in the Biotechnology Program and the general student body which is 70% minority, 49% low-income, and 44% first-generation.

Summary: The CIRM-funded program: Bridges to Stem Cell Research at Pasadena City College brings advanced stem cell training and research experience to PCC biotechnology students, who bring both laboratory skills and diversity to the California stem cell workforce. Engaging in long-term academic research projects in laboratories performing stem cell research as well as related training activities has prepared the interns for varied research and career opportunities in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine. After participating in the internship program, students have accepted research positions in academia and the biotechnology industry; prepared to transfer to four-year universities to continue their education; and been accepted into graduate or professional programs.