"Scary G" and the future of stem cell research

Just a few of the Creativity Program students – with Mani Vessal, PhD in the middle (he’s the one with the suit and tie)

It’s quite inspiring to find yourself in a room with a group of people who have just found their calling in life and are excited about it. You can’t help but get caught up in their enthusiasm.

That’s what it is like to be in the presence of the high school students who spent the past 8 weeks in the CIRM Creativity program, working in the research labs of some of the best stem cell scientists in the country. The goal of the program is to give high school students, who are interested in science, a sense of what it’s like to work in the lab, to give them a glimpse into the future and to help train a whole new generation of stem cell scientists.

If the group that we saw at the Creativity finale this week is anything to go by, the future of stem cell research is very strong indeed.

CIRM Science Officer Mani Vessal, PhD, is the brains (and the heart) behind the program:

“Other than making me feel quite old, looking at the students makes me feel tremendously proud. I get a wonderful sense of gratification being able to offer them a chance to see what it’s like to be a scientist.

When I started the program one of my main goals was to provide exposure and opportunity to students who have no channels, or money, available to them to experience cutting edge medical research and science education. We want this program to open doors for students who might otherwise never even think that a career in science was possible.

Seeing how well these students do, how quickly they rise to the challenge is truly gratifying for all of us involved in running the program. “ 

The students said one of the best parts of the program was that they were treated like adults. Several said they had expected to be given relatively minor things to do, instead they were given cells to cultivate, experiments to do, poster presentations to prepare. In short, they were given the chance to do some real work, real science and learn from the best.

One of the mentors was Dr. Gerhard Bauer at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures. His students affectionately nicknamed him “Scary G” because he pushed them to do well, to work hard, to try new things. But he also gave them a chance to try things they had never done before, to open their eyes to a whole new world. And as if that wasn’t enough he then gave them a special movie showing at his own private movie theater.

The word we heard most during the event was “awesome”. It’s a word that tends to get overused a lot these days. But coming from the Creativity students, it sounded just right.

Here’s a video “mash-up” of videos and photos that the students submitted as part of their internship curriculum.

kevin mccormack

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