Helios Education Foundation gives $6.5 million for TGen interns

January 29, 2008

By hammersmith

Compiled from media reports

Last year, Helios Education Foundation gave the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) $380,000 to support 58 young people interning at TGen for the summer. The program was so successful that Helios is renewing its support—through the year 2032.

On January 29, Gov. Janet Napolitano joined Vince Roig, chair of the Helios board of directors, Jose Cardenas, chair of the TGen board, and Jeffrey Trent, TGen’s president and scientific director, at TGen’s downtown-Phoenix headquarters to announce a grant of $6.5 million, endowing the Helios Scholars Program for the next 25 years.

“Helios Education Foundation’s commitment to develop a long-term partnership with TGen for student training is an incredible boost for Arizona’s future in the biosciences,” Napolitano said. “These types of public-private partnerships hold the key to what must be the central goal of an Arizona education: giving our students the skills they need to succeed in the high-tech, high-knowledge world of the 21st century.”

Each summer, 45 high-school, undergraduate, and graduate students will come to TGen for an eight-week introduction to high-tech bioscience research. They will be paid $10-15 per hour, and under the mentorship of TGen scientists, will participate in “live” research—designing their own experiments, learning to use the same advanced equipment that their mentors employ, and sharing research results via conference-style poster presentations.

Roig explained how impressed he was last summer upon seeing the accomplishments of students who benefited from the initial round of Helios funding.

“I was just blown away,” he said in the East Valley Tribune. “And I said, ‘This is what we want to be involved in.'”

The internship program, four years old, has introduced 250 students to research on subjects as diverse as pancreatic cancer, biofuels, diabetes, and autism. Two high-school interns from the summer of 2005 took their research to the national Siemens Westinghouse Competition, where they won first prize and a $100,000 university scholarship.

“TGen and Helios Education Foundation’s shared commitment to training the next generation of researchers provides an unparalleled opportunity for Arizona and those students seeking hands-on training to augment their classroom experience,” Dr. Trent said. “For many of these students, this experience will prove to be a defining moment in focusing their career choices across the biosciences.”

Daniel Salgado, 22, of Phoenix, recently graduated from the University of Arizona with an engineering degree. As a TGen intern for two summers, he worked on an unusual biofuels project, studying ways to generate electricity from human tissue—a step toward implantable medical devices that do not require traditional batteries.

“Just seeing the possibilities that this biometric research can offer was what I benefited most from out of these internships,” said Salgado, who intends to continue his studies in medical school, in the Arizona Republic.

Naomi Young, 27, is in her third year of medical school at UA. As an intern in 2005, she studied a gene linked to diabetes-induced renal-kidney failure.

“It meant a lot to be able to study something so prominent in my community,” said Young in the Republic. Young grew up in Sawmill, a Navajo Nation town north of Window Rock.

Helios Scholars are selected via a competitive process that is now underway for the 2008 cycle. Each intern must be a resident of Arizona or a full-time student at an Arizona-based high school, accredited college, or university. Applications, due March 14, are available at http://www.tgen.org/intern.

Helios Education Foundation, based in Phoenix, is the largest educational foundation serving Arizona and Florida, with an endowment of some $600 million. Created in 2004 after the sale of Southwest Student Services Corporation, a student-loan company with Arizona and Florida affiliates, Helios has already distribute around $42 million dollars, including $24 million in Arizona. The grant endowing the Helios Scholars Program is the Foundation’s second-largest investment to date.

“Creating opportunities in education that have math and science at their core is very important to Helios Education Foundation,” Roig said. “We’re excited to be investing in a long-term partnership that will impact the future growth and development of the sciences in Arizona.”

For more information:

Students get $6.5M grant to study biomedicine,” East Valley Tribune, 1/29/2008

TGen gets $6 mil for internships,” Arizona Republic, 1/29/2008

TGen media release