EiHS graduation (photo by Graham Clark Stecklein)

EiHS graduation (photo by Graham Clark Stecklein)

Enthusiastic is the word to best describe the students from this year’s USC’s Early Investigator High School (EiHS) Stem Cell Research Program. Ten students graduated from the summer laboratory immersion program at a ceremony held at noon on Friday, July 31 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 apply to work in USC Stem Cell laboratories and take hands-on courses at the USC Stem Cell Core 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.

“This year was the first time we opened up the program so students from any high school could apply,” 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 summarizing their research for family, friends and lab mates to see. Topics ranged from gene editing to neural stem cells to heart regeneration.

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

Many of the students’ laboratory mentors attended to support and brag about their mentees.

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

The students were also positive 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.”

When asked if they planned to pursue careers in science, the students responded with an enthusiastic yes.

by Marie Rippen