The San Diego State University/California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Stem Cell Internship Program, also known as SCIP, has fulfilled the mission of the Bridges to Stem Cell Research Program developed by CIRM in multiple ways. Several interns have gone, or will go, on to continue working in the field, either in the same lab in which they did their internship, or moving directly into another related lab or continuing their education at a higher level.

IMG_0928

Nick Glembotski working in the lab of Dr. Darryl D’Lima at the Shiley Center for Orthopedic Research and Education

One of the first year interns, Nick Glembotski, is doing exactly what CIRM had in mind for this program by continuing his work in field. Nick started his internship in the laboratory of Dr. Evan Snyder at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, working on a project developed by Dr. Darryl D’Lima and Dr. Tsaiwei Olee. The project, an early translational grant awarded by CIRM, looked at different protocols for the differentiation of embryonic stem cells to chondrocytes. The purpose of the study was to see if the chondrocytes could be used as a treatment for osteoarthritis or injury of the knee, and possibly other joints. Nick’s research included animal studies that allowed him to see if the new chondrocytes repaired the osteoarthritic or injured joints. Since the end of his internship, in 2010, Nick has continued working as a full time Research Associate in the D’Lima lab at the Shiley Center for Orthopedic Research and Education at the Scripps Clinic, continuing work on this project as well as moving into other related projects.

Soon Nick will get to take his project to the next level, as CIRM has just awarded the D’Lima lab nearly $8 million as a part of their Preclinical Awards Program. This will take the research, which has a good chance of delivering effective therapy to osteoarthritis victims, one step closer to clinical trials with people.

Nick credits the SDSU/CIRM internship for his ability to both get a job and continue working in the field. He appreciated having his own project, as it allowed him to practice more autonomy and it helped him to develop more decision making skills in the lab. He feels that because of being given their own projects he and the other interns perform more like scientists than just technicians. He also believes that this allowed him to acquire a highly sought after position immediately after completing the internship. Although they have only one year of experience, the interns are “better qualified than most people straight out of undergrad,” particularly those with little lab work experience. He says he ”wouldn’t have gotten the job without [the internship].”

Keri in Yeo lab

Keri Elkins at work in the lab of Dr. Gene Yeo at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine

Keri Elkins, a third year intern, also credits the internship with her ability to move directly into a position as a Research Associate at UCSD. Keri chose to enter the SCIP because there were not many prospects for working with stem cells at SDSU, thus the internship provided her with more opportunities to gain experience in the field. She says that as a result of the internship, “as an undergrad you have so much more experience and can get a job right after.” It provides “exposure to all sorts of things,” which allows you to “see where other opportunities are opening up.” Keri had some unusual experiences in the Inder Verma lab at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and was “trained on all sorts of equipment.” As a result she gained the needed skills to move into a “job right after the internship.” The position she moved into was in the lab of a colleague, Dr. Gene Yao at UCSD. Keri has been encouraged by her PI to take on the duties of the lab manager and she worked as part of a team working with the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Keri has recently moved into BioTech and is now working at Invivoscribe in Sorrento Valley. She joining their research and development team where she will be testing personalized medicine kits in the hopes that they will be approved by the FDA. These kits will help serve as diagnostic tests for doctors to determine whether a patient has a specific gene of interest. She is very excited to be joining the biotech industry

Carlos at work

Carlos Paz at work in the collaborative lab of Dr. Jeanne Loring and the Parkinson’s Association

Carlos Paz, a sixth year intern, who is presently interning with Andres Bratt-Leal at the Parkinson’s Association, in conjunction with the Jeanne Loring lab at the Scripps Research Institute, entered the program for several reasons. First, stem cells are on the cutting edge of science and have all kinds of clinical applications. Since there are not many experiences at SDSU, in this realm, the internship was “the logical place to go.”

Carlos spent a significant amount of time doing research at SDSU, prior to the internship. He started with the Bridges program, which supports first generation, minority students in the sciences, moved into the lab of Dr. Elizabeth Dinsdale, and participated in several summer internships. He considers the internship his “capstone experience” in science at SDSU as it offers the highest level of research training he has experienced.

Also, it fit his career goals. Carlos has set his sights on a PhD in BioMedical Engineering and he believes that his time as an intern in this program improved his chances of getting into graduate school. He will begin his PhD this fall at the University of Texas, Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He believes that the SCIP holds quite a bit of prestige because it attests to not only the student’s scientific aptitude, but also shows how serious a student is about science, as it holds high expectations of dedication to both the laboratory and to SDSU. And he believes that the internship, because of the high expectations, offers a “preview at what life will be like as a grad student.”

Finally, although no less important, is the stipend that accompanies the internship. Because it is a paid position, it brings a sense of seriousness to the endeavor. And because becoming an intern is a competitive process it “attests to [a student’s] ability to get funding.” It also has allowed Carlos to gain the experience he needs without having to maintain employment outside of school, thus he can devote the time needed to support the progress of research in the area of Parkinson’s Disease.

 

Tags: , , ,