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New Horizons in Healing

UC Riverside’s Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering to host a stem cell conference to showcase future researchers and advances in regenerative medicine

Research conducted by students today may well lead to life-saving medical breakthroughs of tomorrow.

Students from the University of California, Riverside’s (UCR) Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering (BCOE) will be among the more than 100 future researchers who will showcase their projects as part of the annual California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Summer Program to Accelerate Regenerative Medicine Knowledge (SPARK) Conference for high school students. BCOE will host the CIRM SPARK conference on August 5-6.

Throughout the event, students will present research that advances regenerative medicine, a cutting-edge field focused on developing stem cell-based treatments for serious diseases; such treatments can potentially heal or replace tissues and organs damaged by aging, disease, and defects.

“This will be a wonderful opportunity for students to come together with their peers, learn from experts in the field, and receive feedback on the findings of their summer research,” said Huinan Liu, the director of the UCR SPARK program for high school students. “The peers and faculty that students meet here may very well become their future colleagues.”

BCOE’s hosting role affirms the college’s strengths in its engineering offerings that advance interdisciplinary research that intersects with biology, medicine, and health-related fields.

CIRM stem cell conference participant and student researcher.
Student conference participants will present research that advances regenerative medicine, a cutting-edge field focused on developing stem cell-based treatments for serious diseases. (Photo courtesy of CIRM)

Engineering faculty — as well as faculty from UCR’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and School of Medicine — actively participate in four CIRM-funded programs at the university that provide training to diverse high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. These programs are part of CIRM’s efforts to expand the regenerative medicine workforce in California and further the state’s position as a global leader in stem cell research.

CIRM’s goal is to develop and fast-track stem cell treatments for patients with health conditions and diseases for which there are no existing or adequate treatment or therapy options. 

Stem cells are a special type of human cell with the ability to develop into many different cell types and repair damaged tissues. Stem-cell researchers work on developing therapies to treat serious ailments such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and muscular dystrophy.

UCR is one of only 11 active sites in California that offer a CIRM SPARK program for high school students.

Huinan Lui
Huinan Liu, director of the UCR SPARK program and a professor in the BCOE Bioengineering and Materials Science and Engineering departments.

To date, CIRM’s educational and training programs have supported 3,800 interns and fellows. The majority of these have achieved employment or chose to pursue further education in regenerative medicine or related fields.

“My hope for the future of these programs and the students that participate is that they become the driving force for the future of regenerative medicine and biotechnology in California,” said Rosa Canet-Avilés, vice president of scientific programs at CIRM.

For more information on CIRM training programs, view the “Providing Opportunities: How CIRM is Building a Legacy of Next Gen Scientists” and “Igniting Innovation: Bringing New and Diverse Perspectives into the Regenerative Medicine Workforce” videos.

BCOE offers nationally recognized engineering programs that intersect with stem cell research and regenerative medicine. These programs equip students to explore and innovate in research areas such as biomaterials, neuroengineering, and molecular and cellular engineering, as well as regenerative medicine.

“The students who are participating in this conference will discover new ways of seeing and thinking about stem cell research, and how that research makes a tremendous impact on human lives,” said Liu, who is also a professor in the Bioengineering and Materials Science and Engineering departments and associate dean for student academic affairs. “The goal is for them to take what they have learned and consider how they can apply that knowledge and training to solve the most pressing health issues that challenge their communities and our world.”

 

The CIRM SPARK conference will feature panel discussions, student-poster presentations, and a keynote address by Dr. Esther Caroline McGowan, a UCR School of Medicine health sciences assistant clinical professor and physician.

CIRM stem cell conference participants.
CIRM’s educational and training programs have supported 3,800 interns and fellows. The majority of these have achieved employment or chose to pursue further education in regenerative medicine or related fields. (Photo courtesy of CIRM)

UCR currently serves as the site for three CIRM-funded training programs. In addition, the university has been supporting CIRM Bridges training programs and providing training and stem cell research opportunities for students from CSU campuses for over a decade:

 • The Summer Training and Research Inspiration for Diverse Pipeline Engagement toward Advancing Stem Cell Treatment (STRIDE) is geared toward underrepresented students from high schools across Riverside and San Bernardino counties. STRIDE supports 12 students per year.

• The Research Training and Mentorship Program (RAMP) is designed for undergraduates. Over 5 years, RAMP will train three cohorts, each with an average of six students.

• The Training Program to Advance Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Research, Education, and Workforce Diversity (TRANSCEND) provides advanced training and courses for Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars.

As these programs continue, “students will be actively engaged in research and training that could one day open up new horizons in regenerative medicine,” Liu said. “New cures, groundbreaking therapies, and innovative treatments.”

Visit the CIRM SPARK Conference 2024 website for more information about the conference, attendee registration, abstract submissions, and sponsorship opportunities.


About the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)
At CIRM, we never forget that we were created by the people of California to accelerate stem cell treatments to patients with unmet medical needs, and act with a sense of urgency to succeed in that mission. To meet this challenge, our team of highly trained and experienced professionals actively partners with both academia and industry in a hands-on, entrepreneurial environment to fast track the development of today’s most promising stem cell technologies. With $5.5 billion in funding and more than 150 active stem cell programs in our portfolio, CIRM is one of the world’s largest institutions dedicated to helping people by bringing the future of cellular medicine closer to reality. For more information, go to www.cirm.ca.gov

 

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