$1 733 760
Statement of Benefit to California:
This application proposes to educate and train 30 students at the graduate level for careers in stem cell biology through classroom education, seminars, and laboratory internships, and also increase awareness among non-science majors. Critical to the program is partnership with four other institutions, including academic institutions offering internships in basic research as well as non-profit and for profit organizations offering internships in translational research and product development. The internship program will be a part of either of two existing masters programs, one in biological sciences, the other in biotechnology. During the first year, students will take graduate level laboratory courses in molecular biology, stem cell biology and immunology. During the second year, students will participate in the internship program. Care will be given to the internship decision, which will take into account the student’s development plan and the host internship site. Students will also participate in seminars that address topics in bench to bedside translational research and development (e.g. GMP), flow cytometry and other relevant topics. At the end of the internship experience, students will submit a portfolio including their professional development plan, an internship research report, and an internship assessment report. They will also take oral and written examinations. Successful candidates will be awarded a Master’s degree. The reviewers found the training plan to be well described in the application, well organized and with adequate integration of all training activities into a comprehensive Masters degree program. They noted that the first-year educational activities of classroom laboratory experience at the applicant institution will provide a broad-based understanding of stem cell biology and thoroughly prepare the students for the internship year. Many of these classes are already in place. The reviewers cited the excellent basic research internship research opportunities as well as more applied internship opportunities described in letters from these host institutions. They noted that the research internships are at laboratories that will provide adequate hands-on experience. Reviewers were particularly enthusiastic about the planned one-year duration of the internships, noting that this was an adequate duration to meet the program goals. They cited as additional strengths the students’ development of a research plan with their mentorship team (intern, home institution coordinator, home institution mentor and host institution research mentor) and the applicant institution’s experience in placing interns in host labs through another program. The reviewers were agreed that the institutional commitment was strong; there were strong letters of support from the Provost, Dean and Chief Operating Officer. The letter from the Dean describes a coordinated effort by a number of faculty at the home institution to put this grant together. Letters from the Provost and from the Dean also cite a commitment of more than $86,000 in matching funds that will support stipends for faculty mentors and the mentorship coordinator. The applicant institution has sufficient laboratory infrastructure to accommodate the full cohort of students in cell culture and other laboratory experiences. Letters of support documented the availability of laboratory internships and demonstrated the enthusiastic participation of partner institutions. The reviewers commented that the roles of the Program Director (PD) and the various leaders are well described and appropriate. The PD provides leadership, and administrative, budget, personnel, and scheduling authority. They noted that the proposed PD chairs a biological science department at the applicant institution and has extensive research and mentoring experience (1100 biology majors in 8 degree programs) that will be valuable to the program. Reviewers did note that the PD does not have first hand experience in the stem cell field. The PD will be assisted by an Advisory Committee that includes members with experience in education and mentoring, in stem cell research, and in industrial applications. One reviewer suggested that the advisory committee needed a few more host faculty members. Reviewers commented that the institution’s plan and criteria to recruit students to the program was reasonable. They did note, however, that although the applicant institution has a diverse student population and is a long-term participant in the development of students for research careers via NIH minority research support mechanisms, there is little description of how a diverse student population will be attracted to this program. Reviewers noted that measures for program success were described although the specific measures constituting success were not specified. They would have liked more quantitative documentation of success from comparable home institution programs. Overall, the reviewers considered this to be a meritorious program based on a well integrated and well developed training plan that incorporated year long internships representing a diversity of research opportunities at regional organizations, strong home and host institutional commitment and capable program administration.