There are very few places in the US where undergraduate students can have direct access to cutting edge stem cell science, let alone directly participate in it. In order to facilitate this interaction, HSCI launched its summer internship program three years ago with the aim of providing undergraduates from all over the world an intensive internship experience that includes hands-on laboratory work, direct mentorship from a stem cell researcher, participation in a weekly seminar, and a focused educational program.
This year, the 15 Harvard College students and 22 non-Harvard students who participated in the program were selected from a pool of over 300 applications. These students gained direct experience in stem cell research while working in an HSCI laboratory under the supervision of an experienced researcher. Interns also participated in a weekly seminar series led by HSCI Affiliated Faculty member M. William Lensch, PhD, designed to showcase specific scientific questions and advances in the stem cell field. Students were also taught how to read and critique scientific literature, create a scientific poster, and present their work to scientific and non-scientific audiences.
The program hopes to inspire students to pursue careers in research as well as serve as a blueprint for other organizations to develop similar undergraduate research education programs with a focus on stem cell science. For those who do not pursue further scientific research, however, the program is invaluable in the skills that it teaches on how to think critically, how to engage in inquiry-driven research, how to analyze problems logically, and how to make fact-based decisions in a complex, fast-changing technical field.