EDUCATION, OUTREACH AND DIVERSITY PROGRAMS

In order to generate a sustained effort to develop advanced biomedical therapeutics over the next decade and beyond, it is vital to educate the workforce of the future. The IBT has created programs in the past that provided uniquely custom-tailored educational experiences at the undergraduate and graduate level. These novel programs have already paid dividends in generating a new class of students who can integrate across diverse fields in science, engineering, and medicine. We recently completed an extensive award-winning program at the K-12 outreach level aimed at underprivileged and at-risk children. Our belief is that science, engineering, and health education needs to be instilled at an early age to prevent “science phobic children.”

Our comprehensive and innovative Science and Engineering (S&E) education outreach initiative is designed to integrate science and engineering principles into the curriculum of elementary, middle and high school students. The Education program complemented the research mission of the IBT by implementing mechanisms for transferring the bioengineering knowledge developed by IBT investigators, as well as the motivation to engage in scientific research and medical device design, to successive generations of students.

Our Education Objectives

  • Increase students’ exposure to the biomedical science, engineering principles and state-of the-art technology that are central to the development of implants.
  • Introduce students to the practical and regulatory aspects of medical device development through courses and participation in corporate internships or industry-based directed research.
  • Enhance the level of interdisciplinary research, teaching and communication, between IBT faculty and students in engineering and those in the Keck School of Medicine at USC, as well as between USC and its partner institutions
  • Increase the representation of underrepresented minorities (URM) and women in science and engineering, particularly in biomedical engineering.

Diversity Initiative

In efforts to address the issue of diversity not only in the IBT but in the field of engineering, we recently completed an academic pipeline of training, recruitment, and retention-based programs for the diverse populations of students we work with from grades K-12, as well as in the undergraduate and graduate levels.

At the K-12 level, the outreach team created a comprehensive and innovative, science and engineering education outreach initiative designed to integrate science and engineering principles into the curriculum of inner city elementary, middle and high school students. The outreach program introduced and/or enhanced experiential learning that promoted understanding of and enthusiasm for basic science, engineering, and technology, particularly among individuals who traditionally have been underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce. At the elementary level, the Science for Life (SFL) outreach program was a collaborative science education initiative between the IBT and Murchison Elementary School (MES). Murchison elementary was a Title 1 school with underrepresented minority students comprising greater than ninety-nine percent of the student population. At the middle school level, El Sereno Middle School, where the majority of El Sereno students (~93 percent) are underrepresented minorities, students and their teachers were invited to USC to participate in Science and Engineering Day sponsored by the outreach program. At the high school level, in an effort to increase awareness of and support for science and engineering among pre-college students, we created the Engineering for Health Academy (EHA), a small learning community within the context of the larger comprehensive school at Bravo Medical Magnet High School. The demographic profile of the school reflected the diverse racial/ethnic makeup of Los Angeles and 74.4 percent of the students are from underrepresented minority groups.

IBT Outreach

IBT is dedicated to fostering education in medicine, engineering, and the sciences beyond the university’s undergraduate and graduate students. Each year, the researchers of IBT have participated in a variety of outreach programs, like the Engineering for Health Academy (EHA), which offers research experiences for local area high school students from Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet School. In these programs, the high school students work closely with university students, post-docs, and faculty to answer fundamental questions of discovery research and/or to develop new technologies to treat medical conditions through applied research. In addition to EHA, the IBT labs have also participated in the Science High School Advanced Research Program (SHSARP), which offers summer research internship opportunities for high school students.

Yazil Aquino and Andrew Valenzuela. Andrew and Yazil are 4th year high school student at Bravo high school who have participated in both the summer SHSARP program and the EHA program in the ’14-’15 academic year. Andrew and Yazil have been investigating how different potentiostat and acoustic deposition parameters affect the physical properties of platinum-iridium coatings for neurostimulating electrodes. They are answering fundamental questions about how these processes may be translated for use in industry.

Andrew and Yazil’s project place third in their division of the Annual Bravo High School science fair, and were invited to the regional science fair competition. At the regional science fair, Andrew and Yazil received a recognition award from AVS for their science fair prize. Yazil will be attending UC San Diego next year with a major in the life sciences. Andrew will be attending a 3-year/2-year bachelors-masters program in Physics and Engineering at Occidental College and Columbia Univeresity, next year.

Stephany Alencaster and Marvin Vestil. Marvin and Stephany are 4th year high school student at Bravo high school who have also participated in both the summer SHSARP program and the EHA program in the ’14-’15 academic year. Marvin and Stephany have investigated the effects of temperature on platinum-iridium electrodeposition to look for optimal conditions for coating depositions for creating improved neurostimulation electrodes to treat conditions like Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

Stephany and Marvin’s project placed first in their division of the Annual Bravo High School science fair, and were invited to the regional science fair competition. Next year Stephany will be attending UC Merced and majoring in Biological Sciences in Human Anatomy with a minor in Psychology. Marvin was accepted to the US Air Force Academy and will be majoring in Aerospace Engineering.

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