Class Discussion: The Promise of Stem Cell Research

By Julia Halprin Jackson

SCILL class of 2020 students who will receive graduate degrees in biological sciences or bioinformatics (left to right): Shane Gillis, ’20 MS Biological Sciences, Arisa Paul, ’20 MBT, William Zhang, ’20 MA Biological Sciences, Colin Dailey, ’20 MBT, Robert Kam, ’20 MA Biological Sciences, Joan Ndungu, ’20 MBT, Steve Shao, ’20 MBT, Nada Khouderchah, ’20 MS Biological Sciences, and Ryan Merrill, ’20 MA Biological Sciences.

For scientists, stem cells offer a unique blank slate. Undifferentiated cells with the potential to be developed into cells with specialized functions, they represent possibility for millions of people living with autoimmune conditions such as type 1 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

At San Jose State, graduate students pursuing either a master’s in biological sciences or a master’s in biotechnology have the rare opportunity to research stem cells through the Stem Cell Internships and Laboratory-Based Learning (SCILL) program, which is funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Established at SJSU in 2009 by Biological Sciences Professor Tzvia Abramson, the unique program offers graduate molecular and stem cell course work, a year-long paid internship in a stem cell research lab, and $7,000 toward the second year of tuition.

“Stem cell research is still relatively new,” says SCILL program coordinator Salma Farid, ’92 Industrial Technology. “Students who study it now could soon be considered experts in the field. The job market is strong and the pay is good. Silicon Valley and San Francisco are the hubs of stem cell research—this is the place to be.”

Over the last decade, 90 SCILL graduates have completed master’s degrees and advanced training in stem cell biology, with more than 92 percent employed in biotech, academia or health-related graduate programs. More than half work directly in stem cell research, contributing valuable data that could someday inform medicine, healthcare and biotechnology.


Julia Halprin Jackson

Julia Halprin Jackson is a writer on San Jose State University's Strategic Communications and Marketing team.

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