Biotech Academy Returns After COVID Hiatus

Internship program mostly virtual in its first year back

September 08, 2022
Female student in pink hijab and covid face mask leans over another female student examining skin cells under a microscope.
Students examine skin cells under a microscope.

One of the most anticipated summer activities on the Touro University California campus had to take a hiatus while the COVID pandemic raged the past two years, but the Biotech Academy Internship returned to Touro this year, albeit in a mostly online format.

This summer camp helps introduce area high school students to numerous sciences, utilizing the university’s deep affiliation with various versions of sciences, technologies, engineering and medicine to immerse young scientists in a world where they can experience everything the field has to offer.

Dr. Shin Murakami, the academy’s director, had to make the decision serval months prior as to whether or not to have the camp in person or not.

“At the time, cases were still on the rise and new COVID-19 variants were happening all the time, so it just seemed safer to offer it online this year.”

The digital setting doesn’t offer quite the same hands-on feel the academy is known for, but it was an effective way to at least get it up and running once again.

Students did, however, have the opportunity to come to campus on the final day of the academy to do a bit of in person learning.

The academy isn’t as much about teaching science as it is about exposing young students to everything these fields can potentially offer.

“We give them a direction for the success hint and they can then go on and work on their own goals,” Dr. Murakami said. “Touro has a very warm and caring culture, and at the same time we’re a professional institution.”

The aim is to help the students find a path that leads them to positions of leadership in medicine and engineering – valuable mentorship that camp counselor Patricia Lascayo, a first-year osteopathic medical student at Touro, said is priceless.

“When I was younger, I didn’t really have a mentor,” Lascayo said. “I think the more we can mentor them, the more it will help expand their abilities in the sciences.”

Lascayo and her fellow COM students who served as counselors at camp had fun serving that mentorship role, but wish something like this was around when they were in middle school and high school.

“I didn’t know everything that was out there,” Lascayo said. “I think it would have been very cool to have something like this when I was younger.”

Despite the mostly digital format this year, Dr. Murakami was thankful to have the academy back in some form and hopes it can be more hands on in the future. He also thanks his colleagues, Dr. Gladys Maria Arguello Fletes, MD (Global Health in Nicaragua), Dr. Gail Feinburg, DO (Ultrasound), Dr. Tamira Elul, PhD (Histology and Art for Mini-Medical School) and Dr. Lilibeth Pinpin, PhD (Robotic Leadership Camp).

“I’m just really excited to see them all,” Dr. Murakami said. “They’re great students and I know they’ll be successful advancing in their careers.”