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December 16, 2015

San Diego Drums & Totes

On Tuesday, December 15, 2015, approximately 75 participants from the Life Sciences Summer Institute (LSSI) gathered at The Scripps Research Institute auditorium for an event called “Meet San Diego’s Future Scientists.” Students, parents, mentors and teachers came to acknowledge the students’ hard work, the sponsors and partners that made the opportunity possible, and to listen to students present their work during the opening and closing receptions.

LSSI is a summer-long paid research internship for high school students that includes a week-long “Boot Camp” covering topics like biotechnology laboratory skills, safety practices and soft skills, and placement at one of San Diego’s world-renowned research institutes.

San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) VP of Communications Heather Milne Barger welcomed all to the celebration of a program that was a result of important partnerships between educational institutions, research laboratories, the County of San Diego and SDWP. Students in the audience cheered as she recognized the work of SDWP’s LSSI Coordinator Erika A. Aranguré for wearing the many hats needed to make the program a success.
Student in front of poster

“Many people and organizations help make LSSI possible,” Milne Barger said. “We are very proud of LSSI and we are even prouder of the accomplishments of the students and our partners. You are shining examples of a successful partnership to develop the next generation of scientists.”

Dr. Ed Abeyta, assistant dean for community engagement and director of pre-collegiate and career preparations programs at UC San Diego (UCSD) Extension, emceed the event. UCSD Extension offers a micro-badge credential upon completion of the internship, an opportunity to gain recognition for the skills participants master during the program. He acknowledged not only the sponsors and partners, but also the parents, without whose support and encouragement the participants would have experienced many more obstacles during LSSI. 

Also in attendance was Kiera Galloway, field representative from Congressman Scott Peters’ office, who shared her own perspective on what it means to have a STEM background working in federal government. She acknowledged Peters’ strong involvement in the life sciences community, and offered the example that as needs for regulation on bioethics increase, those with a STEM background will be able to offer insight to elected officials and affect policy change to better serve citizens. Congressman Peters’ office gave students certificates of special congressional recognition for their participation in the LSSI.

The audience then heard from 2012 LSSI alum Erick Espinoza, who is currently studying medicine at UC Riverside and working at an astrophysics lab studying how galaxies interact. He credits LSSI for offering him a glimpse into STEM careers, and hopes to become a physician after completing his education.

Luke Wiseman, PhD, LSSI mentor at The Scripps Research Institute, talked about the value of LSSI from three perspectives. The student perspective is obvious, he said, but the effect the program has on the graduate students mentoring LSSI students is just as important.

“Those working in the lab, hoping to someday become faculty, benefit immensely from honing their mentoring skills through working with the high school students,” Dr. Wiseman points out. In addition, what students take away from the program is then amplified when they share their skills — deliberately or not — with their communities. For example, students learn to think analytically during LSSI, which is reflected in their interactions with friends, families and with peers at school.

Also acknowledged during the program were the instructors and coordinators who ensure LSSI’s success — Dr. Abeyta of UCSD Extension; Dr. Gloria R. Bañuelos, Ellen Potter, Sharon Price and Dr. Sandy Slivka of San Diego Miramar College, Dr. Dawn Eastmond and Natalie Roper of The Scripps Research Institute; Dona Mapston of Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Craig Milgrim and Allison Shearer of Grossmont College; and Aranguré and Laura Roderickz of San Diego Workforce Parternship / LSSI.Program coordinators receive recognition

LSSI industry hosts and partners include Amgen Foundation, Doing What Matters for Job and the Economy – Life Sciences / Biotech Sector at San Diego Miramar College, Grossmont College, Health and Science Pipeline InitiativePfenex, Pfizer, Pharmatek, Southern California Biotechnology Center at San Diego Miramar College, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, The Scripps Research Institute and UCSD Extension. Sponsors include Biocom, Grossmont College, Health and Science Pipeline Initiative, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, San Diego Miramar College, The Scripps Research Institute, Southern California Biotechnology Center and UCSD Extension.

LSSI participant Michelle Wong says of the program, “I don’t think I will ever encounter a program as kind, thrilling, engaging and agreeable as this one. I cannot express how grateful I am to have bonded with the students and mentors.”

To find out how to add your support for LSSI, please contact Erika Aranguré at


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