USC welcomed its inaugural class of master’s students in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine to one of the first programs of its kind in the United States. To celebrate the launch of this unique master’s program, the 30 students gathered for an orientation and ice cream social at the Eli and Edythe Broad CIRM Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC on Aug. 21.

“Stem cell biology is and continues to be the hot subject in biomedical science,” said master’s program director Henry Sucov. “Stem cell biology is a field that came with its own technology that gives the opportunity to ask and answer scientific questions that couldn’t be asked and answered before, as well as to address medical problems that couldn’t be addressed before.”

The opportunities at this biomedical frontier attracted an accomplished inaugural class from all reaches of the globe — with two-thirds of the students from the United States and one-third from abroad. Many students have earned previous master’s or medical degrees, and have gained prior research experience in the labs of top stem cell scientists.

At USC, these students are venturing into cutting-edge territory through course work in developmental and stem cell biology, human embryology, regenerative medicine and the translational and therapeutic aspects of stem cell technology. They are also donning lab coats and gaining hands-on experience with stem cells. During an optional second year, selected students will be invited to further develop these lab experiences into independent research projects.

Throughout the program, students will benefit from the resources of the university-wide USC Stem Cell initiative, which brings together more than 100 faculty members from all disciplines.

The regenerative medicine and stem cell research program at USC will prepare graduates applying for subsequent studies, such as MD or PhD programs, or those entering stem cell pharmaceutical or regulatory domains.

“What we really want to do is to connect you with the medicine of the future to talk not only about the science that’s behind that, but also about the bigger picture that underlies the application of regenerative medicine,” said Andy McMahon, director of the new Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. “There’s a great group of people that you’re going to meet and great opportunities here, and we really hope you make the most of it.”

— By Cristy Lytal