Stem Cell Training Program - A Bridge to Stem Cell Research

Stem Cell Training Program - A Bridge to Stem Cell Research

Funding Type: 
Bridges
Grant Number: 
TB1-01181
Approved funds: 
$2,623,364
Public Abstract: 
he goal of this Bridges to Stem Cell Research program is to produce students that are capable of carrying out independent research projects and can easily integrate into existing stem cell research groups. The proposed program will train 30 undergraduate students in 3 cohorts over 3 years. Selected students will participate in a rigorous curriculum at the home institution that will provide both the conceptual basis for understanding stem cells and a working knowledge of techniques in stem cell research. An established stem cell laboratory course at the home institution will provide students with 16 weeks of hands-on technical experience with stem cells. Students will also complete 6 months of independent research on a stem cell-related project in one of four research laboratories at the home institution prior to their internship at a host institution. Students will become acquainted with the ongoing research in many stem cell laboratories at the host institutions through discussions of scientific articles published from these labs. The combination of classroom work and 6 months of research experience at the home institution will facilitate rapid assimilation of the intern into ongoing projects at the host institution. These students will also take an advanced Stem Cell Techniques course at their host institution that will augment their training with advanced-level stem cell techniques. The interns will engage in full-time research for 7 months in one of the stem cell research labs at one of four host institutions. Our collaborators, three CIRM-funded university research centers and a hospital with an established stem cell research program, will involve students in independent research projects with human embryonic stem cells. The internship mentors will provide students with additional project-specific technical skills as well as the conceptual underpinnings necessary to solve problems in a particular stem cell research area. Throughout the program, students will hone their scientific communication skills as well as their technical skills to make them valued researchers in any stem cell project. The proposed program will indirectly contribute to support of stem cell research by outreach to a broader audience. In year 2, a module on stem cell research and impacts on regenerative medicine will be integrated into a large, non-major’s introductory biology course. In year 3, an upper division, non-major’s, online, biology course, “Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine” will be developed to provide students with an in-depth examination of the science underlying stem cell research, its translation into regenerative medicine, and the ethical and social impacts of these activities. An annual Stem Cell Symposium highlighting research at the host institutions and accomplishments of the interns will be open to the local community to further promote public awareness of stem cell research.
Statement of Benefit to California: 
The citizens of the state of California have taken an unprecedented step in initiating public support for the advancement of stem cell research. The resources made available through CIRM are creating a boom in stem cell research and positioning various institutions and companies within the state of California to become world leaders in regenerative medicine. However, this acceleration in stem cell research activities has resulted in recent college graduates being unprepared to meet the expectations of the rapidly advancing field. The CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Research Program provides an excellent opportunity to close the gap between the training at the baccalaureate level and the expectations of stem cell researchers. Our Bridges Program proposes intensive training of selected undergraduate students over a period of 6 months prior to the start of their internship at a host institution. We predict that the comprehensive training at the home institution followed by a full-time research experience at a cutting-edge, stem cell research laboratory will allow these new graduates to be exemplar “new hires” in stem cell research and related fields. These new graduates will help to increase productivity in this area of research and close the “gap” in workforce demand for highly-trained technicians that has been expanding in the last few years. By contributing to the workforce pipeline, the CIRM Bridges Program will benefit the state of California by increasing productivity and establishing the state's research centers and industries as world-leaders in the development of useful therapies in regenerative medicine. The students on our campus represent the diversity of the state of California. Our training program allows students from diverse backgrounds to become a part of the ongoing stem cell research boom. We anticipate that some of the students from our program will pursue advanced degrees, which is of benefit to our state because these individuals will be able to bring diversity of thoughts, opinions, beliefs and problem-solving skills to the rapidly growing stem cell research enterprise. The outreach component of the proposed program will introduce a large numbers of non-biology majors to stem cell research and regenerative medicine. This component of the proposal will help to develop an informed citizenry with appropriate expectations of regenerative medicine and maintain public support for stem cell research within the state of California.
Progress Report: 

Year 1

The Bridges to Stem Cell Research (BSCR) program at California State University – Fullerton (CSUF) has provided academic and practical training in stem cell research to a diverse group of students since its inception in 2010. For the undergraduates selected into the program (BSCR Scholars/Interns), it is an intensive 14-month experience dedicated to training them for future laboratory careers or in preparation for graduate or medical school. The BSCR program has greatly benefitted the interns as well as the CSUF Biology Department and indirectly the state of California. The training component is divided into three main segments. Shortly after being accepted into the program, the new cohort participates in the summer course – Essential Techniques in Cell Biology. This class teaches students the basics of working in a research lab including molecular cloning, cell culture, immunoblotting and immunocytochemistry. During the summer, students also conduct research full-time in a CSUF faculty member’s lab. This is often the first hands-on research experience for many of the BSCR Scholars each year. This research experience links the information that Scholars have learned in the classroom with its direct application in the laboratory. Through this process they also learn for the first time how to implement the planned experiments, the basics of working in a research lab, time management with lab responsibilities and other research-related skills. At the end of August, the Scholars present their research projects and initial observations at the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics’ Summer Research Symposium. For the fall semester, BSCR Scholars enroll in a select set of stem cell-related courses: Stem Cell Biology, Research Ethics, BSCR Professional Seminar, Independent Research and Techniques in Stem Cell Biology lab. The courses provided a jump-start for the students in the theoretical aspects of cell biology and hands-on techniques necessary to become an effective stem cell researcher. Students are also empowered by learning essential laboratory techniques in the laboratory courses and then directly utilizing these skills in their individual research projects in the CSUF research laboratories (continuation from summer). Our external evaluator has found that the curriculum is very effective in preparing the students for their internship, especially in comparison to the regular upper division biology curriculum. Furthermore, the Scholars are more confident in their research capabilities as a result of their completion of the stem cell- and research-focused curriculum. After developing a strong foundation in stem cell research and having planned their internship projects with the internship mentors during the Fall semester, the BSCR Scholars are ready to hit the ground running at their internship sites. The BSCR Scholars conduct their seven-month, full time internship at a participating host institution lab from January to July. In 2013, the CSUF BSCR Scholars gained the rare experience for a CSU student to be involved in full time research at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Children’s Hospital Orange County, Stanford University, University of California – Irvine, and University of Southern California. They have conducted research on the potential of stem cells for treatment of a vast array of disorders including: bone disorders, cardiovascular disease, cancer, craniofacial disorders, metabolic disorders, neurological injury and skeletal muscle injury. The BSCR program fosters the transition of the selected participants from a “student” who attends lectures and completes coursework to a “scholar” that is an independent, focused and inspired researcher, capable of making scientific contributions in some of the best research labs in California. Research mentors have noted that BSCR Scholars are more advanced than other undergraduate members of their lab and are comparable to first-year Ph.D. students. Over the past three years, the CSUF BSCR program has trained 29 undergraduates to become competent stem cell researchers. More than 50% of the BSCR Scholars who have graduated are currently working as technicians in stem cell or related fields. Another 30% are pursuing advanced degrees (mainly PhD, and some MD) and plan to apply their knowledge of stem cells in their future careers.

© 2013 California Institute for Regenerative Medicine