Global healthcare firm Grifols and Cal State L.A. launch high school science academy

Hilda Solis with Garfield High students

Two-week program exposed students to science careers, prepare them for college

Clad in white lab coats and beaming with pride, 18 high school students received certificates July 31 at a ceremony marking the end of the Grifols Summer Science Academy at Cal State L.A.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis praised the students for their participation and encouraged their pursuit of careers in STEM.

“It doesn’t just end with the two-week program,” Solis said, in an inspiring talk to students. “It’s going to be very important for us to invest in your education and for you to take advantage of it.”

Global healthcare giant Grifols and Cal State L.A. launched the two-week summer science academy on July 20 to inspire and encourage high school students to pursue careers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

The students worked in campus laboratories under the direction of Grifols professionals and University faculty members. In 10 sessions that focused on microbiology, chemistry and molecular work students learned through first hand-experimentation. The academy exposed students to science-related careers.  

“The Grifols Summer Science Academy is a unique experience introducing our local youth to the biopharmaceutical industry and its various departments, responsibilities and professions,” said Willie Zuñiga, president of Grifols Biologicals Inc. and an alumnus of Cal State L.A. “We value our partnership with Cal State L.A., an institution sharing Grifols’ priorities and focus on STEM, youth success and outreach into our East Los Angeles communities.”

All of the students attend Garfield High School.

Grifols Summer Science Academy 2015The academy comes at a time when President Barack Obama has called on universities and the private sector to increase STEM education for students, especially those from underrepresented communities.

Cal State L.A. President William A. Covino noted that the University has been a leader in producing graduates of color in STEM.

More than 100 Cal State L.A. graduates in the past 12 years have earned Ph.D.’s in STEM-related disciplines and are in postdoctoral fellowships, industrial laboratory positions and faculty appointments.

The National Science Foundation ranked Cal State L.A. as the top baccalaureate institution of Latino science and engineering Ph.D. recipients among all predominantly undergraduate and master’s degree colleges and universities in the continental U.S.

“Our summer academy will educate and inspire high school students and build upon our success in making science more rich by diversifying the ranks of scientists and researchers,” Covino said. “We thank Grifols for working with us to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve.”

Solis praised the collaboration between Cal State L.A. and Grifols and said the academy accomplishes “what I was trying to do as secretary of labor--and that is impact our workforce.”

She noted the higher wages earned by employees in the STEM fields. Solis is a firm supporter of the expansion of the bioscience industry in Los Angeles County.

Grifols is an international firm that develops plasma medicines, diagnostic systems and hospital pharmacy products. Its U.S. headquarters is adjacent to the Cal State L.A. campus and employs about 1,000 people. Roughly 100 of the employees are alumni of the University.

“We want all of the graduating [academy] students to attend Cal State L.A.,” Scott Bowman, dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences at Cal State L.A., said to students Friday. “We look forward to seeing you there.”

Students wore blue, disposable lab coats during their two weeks in the academy.

Cal State L.A. Professor Hyunsook Park, who taught academy students, explained the symbolism of Friday’s white coat ceremony. Each student received a new white lab coat bearing the names Grifols and Cal State L.A.

“The white lab coat is the most recognizable symbol of scientists,” Park said.

Photo: Top, L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis congratulating students after the white coat ceremony for the Grifols Summer Science Academy at Cal State L.A. Bottom, Some of the students from Garfield High School who completed the Grifols Summer Science Academy at Cal State L.A. (J. Emilio Flores/Cal State L.A.)

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