Twenty-three local high school students spent their summer vacations in a very unusual place: the Eli and Edythe Broad CIRM Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC.

This August, these students celebrated their graduations from the USC Early Investigator High School (EiHS) and the USC CIRM Science, Technology and Research (STAR) programs. These are the only programs that offer comprehensive training in stem cell research to high school students.

“The goal of these unique programs is to educate bright young minds at the stage where they’re still formulating ideas and still open and receptive to new discoveries, and introduce them to the wonder and inspirational power of stem cell biology,” said Andy McMahon, PhS, FRS, director of USC’s stem cell research center.

Over the course of the summer, the high school students participated in either a 10-day training course or eight-week research internship, working hands-on with human stem cells in USC’s world-class laboratories under the mentorship of faculty and graduate students.

Victoria Fox, PhD, director of the EiHS program, extended her thanks to everyone who contributed to the experience. “The EiHS program made possible by a team of very incredible people that starts with my laboratory staff and includes donors, the students, the administrators of the stem cell research center and the mentors who take the students in their laboratories,” she said.

This year’s participants were selected from Harvard-Westlake School, Lifeline Education Charter School, Chadwick School and Bravo Medical Magnet High School, and many received scholarships.

On graduation day, the students shared their transformative summer experiences with their mentors, friends, parents and teachers by presenting scientific posters and by contributing articles to the program’s new EiHS Journal, which will publish its inaugural issue in October.

“Being able to contribute to a scientific project that can play an important role in someone’s life is an amazing opportunity,” said Marialuisa Flores, a student from Lifeline Education Charter School in the EiHS program. “It was a very enjoyable learning experience, which has made a great impact on my life and future career.”

— By Cristy Lytal