March 29, 2012 | by City of Hope Staff
We’ve all been treated to stories about how the U.S. is lagging behind in science and mathematics. It begins with dwindling interest in elementary and middle school and leads to fewer college students majoring in the hard sciences. The result: a shortage of qualified men and women to fill open technical jobs.
At City of Hope, though, high school and undergraduate students pursue science through a hands-on curriculum that puts them smack in the middle of laboratories alongside working scientists. It’s all part of City of Hope’s Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy.
The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) values programs like City of Hope’s academy, recently awarding $1.7 million over three years to City of Hope and eight other institutions with similar education programs.
Called Creativity Awards, these grants fund summer internships for high school students at California centers with established student internship programs. The awards support high school students carrying out stem cell research in California labs.
With the help of their faculty mentor, high school students in City of Hope’s academy select their own research project according to their areas of interest. They work full time as a member of a biomedical research team for 10 weeks, and receive mentoring from physicians and scientists. Students interact closely with each other and their mentors, fostering valuable relationships for the future.
Many students in the program contribute to important research and are included on published papers. Some have even patented and sold inventions developed with their mentors. City of Hope aims to help mold the scientists and physicians of the future through the summer academy, the Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences and fellowship programs.
Students have gone on to successful careers. City of Hope’s chief medical officer, Alexandra Levine, M.D., M.A.C.P., was a student in the academy who became a doctor — and then grew integral to the nation’s medical response in the early days of the AIDS crisis. She still cites the academy as one of her life’s defining points that inspired her to become a physician.
The aim of the program is to bring science alive and make it relevant to teens. So, alongside running for student body president, trying out for the football team, sweating out marching band practice, finding the right outfit for prom, and trying to go out on dates, high schoolers can also look forward to something more out of the ordinary: contributing to a cure for cancer.