$1.6 million grant to help biology students

CSUN received a $1.6 million grant from the Californian Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) that will enable the training of undergraduate and graduate students for careers in stem cell biology.

The grant will give an opportunity to six graduate and four undergraduate students to intern at UCLA’s Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research Center, which is known for being one of the leading institutions in stem cell research in the world, said Cindy Malone, assistant professor of biology.

Students will be chosen based on their academic records, biology professor Randy Cohen said.

“Students will fill out an application, will include transcripts, an essay on why they want to undertake this year-long project and two faculty references,” he said.  “The selection committee will then choose based upon their potential to conduct a career in stem cell research.”
CSUN was chosen because of their reputation for laboratory training,  Cohen said.

“There are few universities in California that offer courses during which students can physically take part in hands-on experimentation,” he added.
The grant was given for three years,  Malone said.

“The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine mandated that this be a 3-year program for a total of 10 students per year,” he said. “Thirty students total.”
Despite the grant’s duration, Malone remains optimistic about being able to keep the program funded.

“There is always the possibility that the funding agency, CIRM, will request applications for another round of the Bridges Training program,” she said. “If this happens, we will submit another application to continue our training program. If this doesn’t occur, we’ll seek other funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or private funding agencies to continue our program.”

Malone said students must be enrolled full-time at CSUN in special internship courses that will be paid by the Bridges grant. She added students will receive a $2,500 stipend per month and  up to $5,000 for tuition and other fees while involved in the internship.

During the internship, “trainees will participate in stem cell biology research in mentor labs at UCLA an average of 40 hours per week, under the guidance of the laboratory head and supervision by a senior graduate student focusing on a hands-on and practical laboratory-intensive training experience,” said Malone. “Interns will also work in the CIRM funded Shared Research Laboratory.”

Malone said the internship will benefit students.

“Our inter-institutional training program will provide an opportunity for engaged, interested and successful students to gain the necessary skills and qualifications to springboard into careers in stem cell research that span the spectrum in academia and industry,” Malone said.

In an effort to spread the word about the program, social sites and recruiters are being used, said Malone. More information about the CSUN-UCLA Bridges to Stem Cell Research Program can be found on their Facebook page and will soon have links to information needed to apply to the program, she added.

“We are currently designing a webpage that will be available through the Biology department, the college of Science and Math Page, and through my faculty Web page as well,” she said.
But that is not the only way students are being informed about the program.

“Exceptional undergraduate students will be identified by faculty for recruitment from courses including but not limited to Cell Biology and Genetics as these are both prerequisites and comprehensive courses,” Malone said.

Graduate students will also be recruited from the California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology, The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science and the National Minority Research Symposium to participate in the CRIM Bridges program
Some students are already aware of the opportunity and plan to take advantage.

Biology student, Tannaz Faal, said stem cell research has always been something she is “passionate about and eager to participate in.”

“Students from CSUN are being given the chance to participate and learn from the leading researchers in the stem cell field is an amazing opportunity,” said Faal. “Having both ambitions of being a doctor and PHD of Biology, I know that this grant will provide me with an invaluable opportunity.”