Hancock Students 'Learn by Doing' in Cal Poly Research Labs

AUGUST 15, 2012 -- Two Central Coast colleges are benefitting from one $848,000 National Institutes of Health grant that is funding Allan Hancock College students’ work as research interns in the science labs at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

“My Hancock students have been working hard,” said Jason Blank, Ph.D., assistant professor, biological sciences.  “They’ve been coming in on weekends and on their own time, and they’re eager to learn.”

This is the fourth year that students from Hancock’s Bridges to the Baccalaureate program have worked as summer interns at Cal Poly.  Students work up to 30 hours a week under the supervision of Cal Poly faculty.  The partnership has grown from two students in 2009 to 19 students in 2012.

This summer’s interns are working on research projects including:

  • Synthesis of new alkoxyamine polymers and evaluation of their biological applications
  • Inspecting carbon fiber for hidden impact damage
  • Testing UV technology to inactivate the milk spoilage spore
  • Social hierarchy and emotional health among high status groups
  • Looking at how males and females regulate appetite differently
  • Obesity treatment and prevention in women who have recently had children
  • Using microbial source tracking to find the sources of different strands of E. coli
  • Studying the effects of alcohol consumption on muscle growth
  • Understanding how plant genomes work
  • Studying how the goal to maintain or enhance self-esteem can impact relationships
  • Studying body part regeneration in marine invertebrates
  • Looking at how cells respond to change by stopping the execution of mRNA
  • Analyzing how hormones affect behavior and the parts of the brain that control those behaviors
  • Studying how the human digestive system responds to the pathogens that cause cholera and shellfish food poisoning

Hancock is one of only six community colleges in the nation chosen to receive the Bridges to the Baccalaureate grant to encourage underrepresented minority students to pursue careers in the biomedical or behavioral sciences.  In addition to internship opportunities, participants in the program are offered assistance to transfer to Cal Poly after finishing their requirements at Hancock.

“I’m hoping this is a huge step forward for me,” said Hancock student Janel Case.  “I’ve learned so much at Hancock, and I really want to continue my education at Cal Poly and then make a difference in the world of science.”

Case and her lab partner Oscar Mendoza (shown below left) are assisting Blank with an experiment testing the effects of alcohol on muscle growth.

Oscar Mendoza

“I’m getting a lot of experience working in a lab, and I’ve learned a lot from just being here and observing the scientific process in action,” Mendoza said.

Besides lab experience, students in the Bridges program benefit from a shared sense of community, according to biology student Morgan Nelson.  Nelson (shown below with Masson Blow) is assisting Michael Black, Ph.D., director of the Undergraduate Biotechnology Laboratory at Cal Poly, to track sources of E. coli using molecular fingerprinting.

Morgan Nelson and Masson Blow“When you want to be a doctor, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by everything you need to know, but I’m now part of a group of people who understand how hard it is and that it’s all worth it,” she said.

Nelson’s lab partner Masson Blow definitely understands hard work.  Blow is a member of the Hancock football team and works long hours in order to achieve his goals of playing sports at the collegiate level while studying to become an exotic animal veterinarian.

“It’s amazing how much trust the Cal Poly professors have in us and how much responsibility we’re given,” he said.  “This experience has really put the scientific process into perspective for me.”

Blow was one of the last students to apply for and be admitted to the Bridges program this year.  He heard about the program from a fellow student athlete who was a paid intern at Cal Poly last summer.

“I would urge any student who wants a career in science to apply,” he said.  “We all have the same goals, to go to Hancock, get the best grades that we can and then transfer to a university.  This program has only helped me toward those goals.”

The Bridges to Baccalaureate program is currently accepting applications from current Hancock students and graduating high school seniors.  To apply, go to www.hancockcollege.edu/bridges or for more information email Emily Smith at esmith@hancockcollege.edu.

- AHC -

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Last Modified Dec 10, 2014