Photo courtesy of USCBeginning Spring 2018, the Keck School of Medicine will offer a new two-unit elective course, “SCRM 517: Historical and Contemporary Stem Cell Research.” The course, which is geared toward master’s students, will be taught by Professor Rong Lu in the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. Lu plans to cover significant developments in stem cell research history. Unlike other courses, she says SCRM 517 will also emphasize the experimental techniques and methods used in past developments, allowing students to gain applicable skills for future research.“[The course’s] idea is to think about how to address the question, how to design the experiment and to understand the goal of the experiment, the potential problem, and what are the new knowledge we can gain from the experiment,” Lu said. “[This will give] them an overview of experimental design and … a platform to discuss the research and potential problems.”While Lu will start teaching the course in her third year at USC, the idea for the course came years prior during her postdoctoral work under Professor Irving Weissman at Stanford’s Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. Weissman noted that while many classes involved research, few taught students how to do so. With that, an idea was born.“[Research is the] kind of a thing we are doing everyday but there’s not … a direct thing [to teach that],” Lu said. “Most of the courses just teach you what we learn from those studies, but exactly how those studies came about, why people do this study … how does those specific study … give us the new knowledge [isn’t taught].”Although Lu is unsure how many will take the course, she hopes to have between 10 and 20 students enrolled to ensure a workshop-style feel in the class. To provide a refreshing and entertaining perspective on course materials, Lu will also utilize in-class discussions and exercises based on the research conducted to allow students to practice their skills. And for Lu, there’s no better discussion topic than stem cells. She’s been fascinated with them since 1997, when Dolly the sheep became the world’s first cloned mammal, during her senior year of high school. “I feel like this is a very interesting question, a very interesting problem and also has enormous medical potential,” she said. She hopes the class will spark in her students the same inquisitive interest that’s driven her for the past 20 years. “I want it to be a little bit more interactive … [with] more experimental and more exploring in class,” Lu said.