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Local high school students graduate from USC’s summer stem cell program

It’s never too early to get teens interested in science, as evidenced by these enthusiastic researchers

Enthusiastic is the word to best describe the students from this year’s USC’s Early Investigator High School (EiHS) Stem Cell Research Program.

Ten students graduated from the summer laboratory immersion program at a ceremony held July 31 at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC.

Since 2012, the program has enabled more than 50 students from local high schools to apply to work in USC Stem Cell labs and take hands-on courses at the USC Stem Cell Core Facility. This year’s students hailed from Cupertino High School, Fairfax High School, Harvard-Westlake School, Lifeline Education Charter School, Milken Community Schools, Palos Verdes Peninsula High School and San Marino High School.

“This year was the first time we opened up the program so students from any high school could apply,” said Kanomi Sasaki-Capela, the training coordinator at the USC Stem Cell Core Facility.

For the first hour of the graduation ceremony, students exhibited posters summarizing their research for family, friends and lab mates to see. Topics ranged from gene editing to heart regeneration.

Giving thanks

To begin the formal graduation ceremony, members of the USC Stem Cell and EiHS communities spoke, thanking the parents, professors, USC Stem Cell Core Facility members and students themselves. As the students’ names were called, they crossed to the front of the room to shake hands with EiHS program director Victoria Fox and receive plaques commemorating their accomplishments.

Summer stem cell research posters

High school students present research posters about summer stem cell projects. (Photo/Graham Clark Stecklein)

Many of the students’ lab mentors attended to support and boast about their mentees.

“Jonathan was very responsible,” said postdoctoral researcher Susanna Cavallero, who mentored Jonathan Kay, a student from San Marino High School. “He was a pleasure to have in the lab — plus, most of his experiments worked.”

The students were also positive about their experiences with EiHS.

“I enjoyed the weekly forums with Dr. Fox,” said Sharon Chow, a student from Harvard-Westlake School. “She asked each of us what we were working on so we all could hear about each other’s projects.”

When asked if they planned to pursue careers in science, the students responded with an enthusiastic yes.

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Local high school students graduate from USC’s summer stem cell program

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