This past summer, 31 college students, excited by the challenges of stem cell biology, worked as interns in HSCI laboratories at Harvard, Harvard Medical School, and its affiliated research hospitals. The lucky 31 were selected from a pool of almost 200 outstanding applicants vying for spots in this, HSCI’s third summer internship program.
A 10-week, intensive hands-on research and educational program in stem cell science and technology, the HSCI summer internship program is entirely funded by the generosity of individuals who believe in the promise of stem cell science. The application process is competitive, with members of a review committee conducting phone interviews with those selected for the final round.
Applicants come from a wide range of backgrounds, and not all have had previous laboratory experience. The program is dedicated to providing undergraduate students who do not have access to stem cell science at their schools with a unique opportunity, and it extends its reach beyond Harvard’s borders. This past summer, there were 15 non- Harvard students, including one from the U.K. and one from Egypt. In addition to working fulltime in the laboratory, all interns attended a weekly seminar series and a Stem Cell Companion Course. The seminar series featured a scientific talk by an HSCI stem cell investigator, along with a career panel that introduced interns to alternative careers in science. The Companion course met weekly and consisted of two components, an outreach project and a journal club.
Interns worked together in groups to develop an outreach presentation aimed at the high school level on a disease area relevant to stem cell research. This project engaged the interns in thinking about stem cell science from a disease perspective and provided them with experience in translating complex scientific terms and concepts into language appropriate for a high school audience. In partnership with Boston’s Roxbury Latin School, two summer interns presented their projects to a high school class taught by Larry Murphy. (Murphy is director of the Biotechnology Institute at the school.)
The focus of the journal club is to teach and refine skills necessary for critically analyzing scientific and review literature. Each intern gained experience presenting parts of a paper and leading detailed discussions. In addition to the science of stem cell research, interns engaged in lively discussion on the ethical, philosophical, and social implications often associated with this field.