Enthusiastic is the word that best describes the 10 students from this year’s USC Early Investigator High School (EiHS) Stem Cell Research Program, who graduated July 31 from the summer laboratory immersion program 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 work in stem cell laboratories and take hands-on courses at the USC 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. The program was opened this year for students from any high school, 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 that summarized their research for family, friends and peers. Topics included gene editing, neural stem cells and heart regeneration.

To begin the formal graduation ceremony, members of the USC Stem Cell and EiHS communities spoke, thanking 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 Core Program Director Victoria Fox, PhD, receive plaques commemorating their accomplishments.

Many laboratory mentors attended to support and brag about the students they had advised.

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

The students had positive things to say 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.”

Esmeralda Lorenzana, a student from Lifeline Education Charter School, added, “It was also interesting to hear from professionals in different science-related careers.”

Will these students pursue careers in science?

The response was an enthusiastic yes.

— Marie Rippen