A lot of moving parts needed to mesh before July 13, the first day of Virtual Research Week, which was conducted on a video-conferencing platform with nearly 20 speakers and 90 students. "We wouldn't have been able to pull this program together without the fabulous faculty and staff across the academic enterprise," Chaudhary said.
Project scientist Veronica Garcia, PhD, played an instrumental role by making five presentations that covered a spectrum of topics, including stem cell biology, research ethics and scientific communication.
Garcia directs the High School Outreach Program at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine, which normally includes an annual summer Research Week—a hands-on session that introduces area high school students to the wonders of stem cell science. Like Minors in Research, this session was canceled and wrapped into the new Virtual Research Week.
The week's first speaker was Stephen Freedland, MD, professor of Surgery and director of the Center for Integrated Research in Cancer and Lifestyle at Cedars-Sinai Cancer, who walked students through an overview of cancer. Later in the week, students heard from other specialists who discussed cancer risk factors and treatments.
Jason Cohen, MD, shared what he described as "not a typical career path for a surgeon," as evidenced by his bachelor's degree in fine arts. He advised students to be thoughtful before committing to a career in medicine. "The medical path is long and difficult, so if there are other fields you're interested in, take the time to explore those possibilities," he said.
Cohen's advice struck a chord with Andee Koo, who will start her senior year at North Hollywood High School this fall. "Dr. Cohen's segment was so good. It was insightful and gave me inspiration, especially because I've been struggling with possible career pathways."
The week's roster also included several physician-scientists and a nurse-scientist, all of whom discussed their professional paths and research focuses.
Robert Baloh, MD, PhD, professor of Neurology and director of the Cedars-Sinai Center for Neural Science and Medicine, talked candidly about the challenges of pursuing research while being a clinician. For him, the rewards outweigh the challenges.
"By turning genetic insights into new therapies, you can make a tremendous difference in someone's life," Baloh said. He shared the story of a family whose 17-month-old daughter succumbed to a genetic disorder called spinal muscular atrophy. When a second daughter was born with the same condition, he said, "she was treated with a gene therapy and now is 3 years old and developing normally."
Baloh's presentation caught the attention of Eduardo Rosales, a rising senior at Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach. "I found it fascinating that translational scientists are the ones responsible for bridging the gap between scientific innovation and real-life application."
For more information about internships, visit the websites of the Research Internship Program and the Regenerative Medicine Institute's High School Outreach Program.