A program that created science research internships at Cal Poly for more than 60 Allan Hancock College students has been funded for another five years. The National Institutes of General Medical Science has awarded a five-year $966,000 grant to extend Hancock’s Bridges to the Baccalaureate program in partnership with Cal Poly.

Hancock is one of only three community colleges in the nation to be the lead partner hosting the program.

“We are very excited to be awarded this renewal grant because it shows we have done an excellent job in the last five years,” said Dr. Len Miyahara, the college’s program director.

The unique program seeks to increase the number of underrepresented minority students pursuing degrees in biomedical fields by providing them with paid summer research internships in biology labs with Cal Poly professors. Bridges students also receive assistance to transfer to Cal Poly after finishing their requirements at Hancock.

Bridges to the Baccalaureate paves the way for 22 Allan Hancock College students to work as paid summer interns in science labs at Cal Poly. Then-Hancock students Janel Case (middle) and Oscar Mendoza (right) assisted Jason Blank, Ph.D., a Cal Poly assistant professor, test the effects of alcohol on muscle growth in 2012.

“The program is about helping students see beyond an associate degree and seize an opportunity to go pursue a bachelor’s degree, and hopefully a graduate degree to do research in the biomedical and behavioral health fields,” said Miyahara. “The renewal will allow us to impact 110 future Bridges scholars on our campus.”

In the last five years, Hancock has accepted 65 Bridges students, 40 of them have transferred to four-year universities like Cal Poly. Hancock students assisted on research projects ranging on topics from how hormones affect behaviors and the brain, fluorescent staining and imaging of skeletal muscle arterioles and capillaries, to creating a dietary supplement to increase exercise performance at sea-level and simulated altitude.

“This grant is not only about helping students who never would have imagined getting an associate degree, let alone a Ph.D. or an M.D., but we could actually turn the destinies of entire families for the better,” said Paul Murphy, Ph.D., academic dean.

The National Institutes of Health grant will also continue to fund the college’s advanced anatomy class and the use of Cal Poly students to serve as teacher’s assistants. The college offers an Anatomy Honors cadaver dissection program, an opportunity Miyahara describes as one of a kind.

“The grant has allowed our students to complete three nervous system extractions. These procedures are not done in most medical schools, let alone at four-year universities,” said Miyahara.

The Bridges program is currently accepting applications through October 24. Students must first fill out an eligibility form that can be downloaded at www.hancockcollege.edu/bridges/how-to-apply.php.

For more information, call (805) 922-6966 ext. 3658 or email bettie.shaw@hancockcollege.edu.