Professor Shen Helps Bring Biotech to Boyle Heights High School
- Boyle Heights has a fascinating history, once home to Jewish families and now the bedrock of the Latino immigrant community. And Boyle Heights has an exciting future as the center of biotech expansion in Los Angeles, as celebrated by USC and others last month with the “Business of Biotech” Summit at the USC Keck Medical Campus in Boyle Heights.
Dr. Keyue Shen, USC Viterbi School of Engineering Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, is already introducing biotech to high school students at the STEM Academy of Boyle Heights. Eager to help students understand how their courses in biology, math, and physics can lead them to help society, as does his own research in fighting cancer, Dr. Shen has joined with STEM Academy teacher Sandra Huang to bring her biology students to his biomedical engineering lab for the next five years.
(L-R) Dr. Shen with STEM Academy teacher Sandra Huang
Dr. Shen in front of a mural at STEM Academy of Boyle Heights
Dr. Shen has a track record of reaching out to students in South and East Los Angeles, where at least 87% of the students receive federal assistance for school lunches. His commitment to helping underrepresented minorities find the value and benefits of STEM leads him to open his labs for student tours and meeting with principals, like Ms. Adriana Trejo of STEM Academy of Boyle Heights, to find ways to help local students learn about STEM college and career pathways.
“I think my motivation for outreach comes from my personal experience. I have always been very interested in STEM since childhood, but nobody in my family attended college (my parents had to quit school before junior high because of economic and political turmoil in China back then). There were no colleges or research institutions where I grew up,” said Dr. Shen, explaining his dedication to sharing the broader impacts of his research. By reaching out to a community that also has a low incidence of higher education, Dr. Shen hopes to encourage those with a natural inclination toward STEM to find their way to college and even the research laboratory.
Los Angeles’ business community sees tremendous opportunities to increase good jobs in Boyle Heights biotech, as championed by Willie Zuniga, President of Grifols, based in El Sereno. Dr. Shen is already there, sharing his research into how cells signal one another in cancer and encouraging the students of Boyle Heights to find a healthy future in their STEM schoolwork.
99,243 population in 2008, based on L.A. Department of City Planning estimates.
$33,235 median household income (2008 dollars), low for the city of Los Angeles and low for the county
69% of residents do not have a high school degree
STEM Academy of Boyle Heights