The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is a premier, nonprofit research institution with two campuses, La Jolla, CA and Jupiter, FL. TSRI focuses on basic biomedical science, which refers to researching fundamental building blocks and their influence on larger human conditions. For example, Scripps scientists may look at how small changes within one molecule or one protein can affect things like Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, cataracts and circadian rhythm.
In addition to employing researchers, TSRI places a heavy focus on education, offering a top-ten graduate Ph.D. program in the chemical and biological sciences as well as outreach programs for high school and middle school students, teachers and undergraduates. One such effort, which places high school students into summer Life Sciences internships with TSRI, is administered in partnership with SDWP’s Life Science Summer Institute (LSSI).
Prior to integrating with LSSI, many of the research institutions in San Diego, including TRSI along with Salk, Sanford Burnham and others were all coordinating parallel internship programs for high school students. Through collaboration with each other and LSSI, high school students now apply through one portal, streamlining the process for students and the Life Science employers. LSSI screens applicants and passes them on to the institutions who place interns based on qualifications and the preferred work site each student indicates in the application. TRSI hires 20 interns each year through LSSI.
Before beginning their internship, LSSI participants complete a one-week boot camp where they learn basic lab skills, as well as essential skills for working in a professional life sciences environment. “[The boot camp] has been such a help for the lab staff here and the students are able to get so much more from the experience,” says Graduate Program Coordinator Ashley Hull, noting that the boot camp training helps students to take full advantage of the eight weeks spent working at TRSI since they show up knowing the basics of lab work from day one.
Making sure students get the most from their internship experience is something TSRI pays close attention to, seeing the importance of developing a diverse pipeline of future scientific talent. “We really try to target our program to students who have a deep love for science, but might not have access to high level science research," says Hull. “We like to look for the student who might not have science mentors in their life and we love watching the students blossom once they get here.”
Hull says that students who participate in the program are given a leg up when they get to college. “Students can hit the ground running their first year of college,” she says. “This experience really helps some of them decide what they want to do, whether that’s science or not.”