Funding opportunities

Bridges to Stem Cell Research

Funding Type: 
Bridges
Grant Number: 
TB1-01185
Principle Investigator: 
Funds requested: 
$1 144 517
Funding Recommendations: 
Recommended if funds allow
Grant approved: 
Yes
Public Abstract: 
Our Bridges to Stem Cell Research program will have 7 components: 1) Partnership with two local community colleges to diversify the potential population of interns, 2) Internships at three host institutions, one a public research university, one a private research institute, and one a commercial company. This will provide research experiences that occur in diverse environments, each with their own institutional emphasis. 3) Students will receive academic course credit that will allow them to continue earning credit towards their degrees while conducting their internship research. 4) Development of cell culture courses on the student’s campuses to provide them with training prior to entering their internship. 5) Development of a Stem Cell Techniques training course at a Shared Research Laboratory to provide advanced training in embryonic stem cells prior to entering their internship. 6) Development of two general education course modules to educate the broader population in stem cells. 7) Mentorship of students, including academic counseling, preparation for application to advanced programs, and opportunities for presentation of research results. Over the three year period of the grant, we will train 20 undergraduate students and 6 Master's level graduate students. Because of our strong base in the underrepresented Hispanic population, along with other underrepresented minorities, women, and students with disabilities, our Stem Cell Internship program promises to not only provide appropriately qualified graduates in the relevant disciplines, but to provide diversity in these graduates as well. Our goal is to prepare these students for acceptance into an advanced educational program or entry into the stem cell workforce. We are partnering with two local community college campuses to further diversify the pool of internship candidates and to broaden the impact of this program on students in this area of California. A new component in the curriculum at each campus will be to develop courses to allow students to gain both a theoretical and practical background in tissue culture, along with an introduction to stem cell research. For host internship sites, we will send students to stem cell laboratories at three institutions; one is a public research university, one a private research institute, and one a private company. One of our host campuses is a Shared Research Laboratory recipient and will develop a stem cell techniques laboratory course using human embryonic stem cells. All students in our program will take this course prior to their 6-month (undergrad) or 12-month (grad) internship. To educate the broader student population, we will develop modules that discuss stem cells, including the ethics of stem cell research, within two General Education courses. These courses reach approximately 1500 students each year.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
The passage of Proposition 71 – Cures for Californians has provided a landmark opportunity to pursue the development of stem cells to provide therapeutic treatments. California will need highly trained technicians in addition to the senior scientists in order to carry out the basic and applied research. Our Bridges to Stem Cell Research proposal will assist in meeting the goal of developing a well trained and diverse workforce. Because of our strong base in the underrepresented Hispanic population, along with other underrepresented minorities, women, and students with disabilities, our Stem Cell Internship program promises to not only provide appropriately qualified graduates in the relevant disciplines, but to provide diversity in these graduates as well. To educate the broader student population, we will develop modules that discuss stem cells, including the ethics of stem cell research, within two General Education courses. Our Stem Cell Internship program will have 7 components: 1) Partnership with two local community colleges to diversify the potential population of interns, 2) Internships at three host institutions, one a public research university, one a private research institute, and one a commercial company. This will provide research experiences that occur in diverse environments, each with their own institutional emphasis. 3) Students will receive academic course credit that will allow them to continue earning credit towards their degrees while conducting their internship research. 4) Development of cell culture courses on the student’s campuses to provide them with training prior to entering their internship. 5) Development of a Stem Cell Techniques training course at a Shared Research Laboratory to provide advanced training in embryonic stem cells prior to entering their internship. 6) Development of two general education course modules to educate the broader population in stem cells. 7) Mentorship of students, including academic counseling, preparation for application to advanced programs, and opportunities for presentation of research results. Over the three year period of the grant, we will train 20 undergraduate students and 6 Master's level graduate students. Our goal is to prepare these students for acceptance into an advanced educational program or entry into the stem cell workforce.
Review Summary: 
This proposal involves collaboration between the applicant institution and two local community colleges to train 20 undergraduate and 6 Master’s level students. The respective 6-month and 12-month internships will be performed at 3 host institutions: 2 academic and 1 for-profit. Each participating home campus will develop a tissue culture course and one of the host institutions will develop an intensive, 1 week course in stem cell techniques, a required course for all participants prior to their internship. At the end of the internship, trainees will present their research at a symposium. Overall, reviewers expressed only moderate enthusiasm for this proposal. The proposed program fits well with ongoing efforts to increase stem cell research at the applicant institution, and the collaboration with the community colleges serves to diversify the intern population. The coordinators at the community colleges formerly were students or faculty at the applicant institution, providing confidence in the management of this collaboration. Similarly, the applicant institution has a long partnership with one of the host institutions, as many of its faculty members have received their degrees from that institution. Although one reviewer felt that this was a well written and well organized proposal, others pointed out that sufficient details about the proposed course work were lacking, and the requirements for MS students to complete their Master’s thesis and follow-up after their internship were unclear. The undergraduate curriculum lacks a course in developmental biology, and a 1-week stem cell techniques course was considered inadequate. Satisfactory details on student mentoring during both the didactic component and the internships were included, and reviewers liked the inclusion of a signed agreement between interns and mentors to manage expectations. Reviewers also appreciated that internship placement involves selection from possible projects and interviews with potential mentors, as this approach will facilitate finding a good match for the interns. However, reviewers were not satisfied with internship assessment through a certification by the laboratory mentor that requirements have been met, and suggested the inclusion of a final written research report. There is strong support from the applicant institution for this program as the Associate Provost for Research is co-Program Director on this application, so the administration is very involved. However, reviewers were concerned about the level of commitment from the collaborating home institutions, since their letters of support are form letters with only minor modifications. They do note that they will develop the appropriate courses as detailed in the application, but whether they have the expertise to do this is unclear. The partnership with the host institutions was considered solid, as one of the institutions has a growing interest and expertise in stem cell research, and another provides a range of faculty, many of whom have bona fide stem cell credentials. The Program Director is a senior faculty member at the applicant institution and has significant experience in student mentoring. He/she has extensive experience in teaching and a reasonable amount of administrative experience. However, administration of the large proposed program will be more challenging than his/her previous experiences. The co-Program Director is very senior, providing considerable administrative experience. The advisory committee is quite small and would have benefited from the inclusion of some host campus faculty. Overall, although this program had some strong elements, reviewers had only moderate enthusiasm for this proposal.
Conflicts: 

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