Pathways to Stem Cell Science Awarded Grant to Host CIRM SPARK Program Meeting at Caltech

Pathways to Stem Cell Science Awarded Grant to Host CIRM SPARK Program Meeting at Caltech

By Victoria Fox, Executive Director, Pathways to Stem Cell Science.

We are pleased to announce Pathways to Stem Cell Science has been selected to host the 4th annual CIRM Summer Program to Accelerate Regenerative Medicine Knowledge (SPARK) Meeting at Caltech.  Funded by a $49,915 grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), this event assembles participants of the CIRM SPARK program for a 2-day science and networking symposium.

CIRM SPARK is a CIRM funded summer internship program that enables high school students to gain stem cell research experience working in academic laboratories across California. The program aims to engage high school students in the field of stem cell research while initiating their journey towards bioscience careers.  Seven institutions currently hold an active CIRM SPARK award, including Caltech, City of Hope, Cedars Sinai, UC Davis, UCSF, Stanford University and Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI).

The profound impact of the SPARK program is evident through the student’s social media communications. Their photos of life in the lab appear on Instagram under the hashtag #cirmsparklab. And in blog posts, students share their surprise that bioscience labs are not cold and stern, but exciting and warm places. Anna Guzman, then a high school Junior in 2018, wrote:

“I imagined the chilling concentration of dozens of geniuses bent over their work, of tissue culture rooms where every tiny movement was a potential disaster…. I soon found that the lab was a place of laughter and jokes across bays, a place of smiles in the hallways and mentors who tirelessly explained theory after theory until the intoxicating satisfaction of a lightbulb sparked on inside my head….  I was wrong when I assumed that this was a place where I would never belong. Instead, as I stood in front of this community of amazingly brilliant and kind people, my mouth forming words that I couldn’t have dreamed of understanding a month ago, I realized that this was precisely where I belonged. This was the place for me.”

Pathways to Stem Cell Science is also a key participant in the program’s success, acting as the co-director of the Caltech program and organizer of the 2019 CIRM SPARK meeting. The CIRM SPARK program is an integral part of our mission to foster equal educational and career opportunities for students across diverse and underserved backgrounds. It provides hands-on skills and career focused knowledge to low-income and underserved students.

The CIRM SPARK program is culminated each year by the CIRM SPARK meeting, a 2-day event that enables students, scientists and program organizers to come together with policy makers, funding bodies, and influential figures in the scientific community. Sparking conversation between students and those established in the stem cell research community provides a critical platform for early career scientists to build confidence and professional networking skills.

Organized by Pathways Program Director, Dr. Mickey Pentecost, the 2019 CIRM SPARK meeting will take place August 11th and 12th, 2019 at the William. G. Kerckhoff Laboratories at Caltech where over 200 students, scientists, companies, CIRM officials and influential figures in the life science field are expected to attend.  The meeting will kick off with a networking dinner on the first day, followed on the second day by poster presentations, corporate displays and a symposium featuring key note speakers from industry, academia and patient advocacy groups.  Renowned speakers will include Dr. Dennis Clegg of Regenerative Patch Technologies, Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz of Caltech, Adrienne Shapiro of Axis Advocacy and more.

Pathways is excited to play an ongoing role in this life changing program and honored to have secured a competitive bid to host the 2019 CIRM SPARK meeting. To learn more, visit the event website.

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