RMI Expands High School Outreach

The Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute expanded its educational outreach to the community Nov. 11 by hosting students from a nonprofit Inglewood organization devoted to the intellectual and career development of African-American, Latino and other minority students in the fields of science and technology.

Nine middle- and high-school students from A-MAN Inc. STEM International Science Discovery and Learning Center, along with faculty and other staff from the Regenerative Medicine Institute, participated in the event at the Advanced Health Sciences Pavilion. Students toured laboratories, debated ethical issues in research and engaged in activities featuring stem cells and their applications.

"This was a wonderful opportunity to work with a very bright group of young minds," said Clive Svendsen, PhD, director of the Regenerative Medicine Institute and professor of biomedical sciences and medicine.

The Nov. 11 event, known as STEER (Short Term Educational Experience in Research), was organized by Alysia Caldwell, management assistant and co-coordinator of the Regenerative Medicine Institute High School Outreach Program.

Benjamin Bakondi, PhD, tours laboratories with students during an outreach event organized by the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute.

Caldwell said she hoped STEER would become a regular part of the program, which includes an annual summer Research Week, when students from Southern California high schools, recruited through the Cedars-Sinai Teen Volunteer Program, study induced pluripotent stem cells – skin cells that have been genetically engineered back to an embryonic-like state – to model and treat diseases. Institute staff members also regularly give talks at high schools.

"Every year we do something a tad bit different with the program, and we are seeing a growth in numbers," Caldwell said. "Students are taking interest in the research after hearing from us, and it’s exceptional to watch our mission play out right in front of us."

Besides Caldwell, staff members who participated in the STEER event included:

  • Virginia Mattis, PhD, co-coordinator of the outreach program
  • Gretchen Miller, PhD, postdoctoral fellow
  • Melanie Das, PhD
  • Rachelle Levy, research associate
  • Marina Dutra-Clarke, research associate
  • Mehrnoosh Ghiam, PhD, research scientist and assistant professor of surgery
  • Benjamin Bakondi, PhD, postdoctoral scientist