Professor Jane Bruner, associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, is especially pleased by a recent $1.4 million stem cell grant extension that will bolster Sacramento State’s Professional Science Master’s (PSM) program.
The degree program was born of a partnership between Sacramento State’s Department of Biological Sciences and the UC Davis Stem Cell Program. The academic alliance was forged four years ago to create a comprehensive program, including an internship, to prepare graduates for careers as stem cell professionals.
Bruner, a Sac State graduate in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Clinical Laboratory Technology, is project director for the grant extension. She cites the program’s success for the continued funding. “I spent a few sleepless nights trying to get the extension wording just right,” she says, “because this program has been such an incredible experience for our students.”
Three years ago, Sac State and UC Davis won a $1.3 million “Bridges to Stem Cell Research” grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). The grant extension will propel the 20-month graduate degree program that focuses on producing the next generation of stem cell scientists.
PSM students focus on practical research and laboratory projects that prepare them for careers in the stem cell field. Employers of recent PSM graduates in the biosciences range from academic laboratories to multinational pharmaceutical companies and newer biotechnology companies.
“Students learn specialized techniques such as good manufacturing practices, adult and embryonic stem cell culture, and (how) to scale up production for cellular therapies, which will play an important role in advancing stem cell science and bringing new treatments to patients who need them,” says Jan Nolta, Stem Cell Program director for UC Davis’ Institute for Regenerative Cures and herself a Sacramento State graduate.
Bruner sees the UCD stem cell center as “an incredible asset that allows our students to go beyond the cutting edge in learning and participating in researching potential cures for dreaded diseases.” She likens the training students receive in the accelerated 20-month PSM program to medical school. “They are also trained in best practices that make the crucial connection between theory, research and patients,” she says. This year’s students are currently working to solve the mystery of malignant melanoma, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), liver cell therapy, liver disease, neural stem cells and brain tumors.
Every PSM graduate has landed a job in the scientific community or has pursued a doctorate. Bruner’s only regret is that the program cannot accommodate all of the highly qualified applicants.
“Nearly the entire grant funding goes toward providing students an incredible opportunity to be involved in working to produce treatments for patients with deadly and disabling diseases,” she says.
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– Alan Miller