A scientific summmer

Two Malibu High students are given the opportunity to explore the world of science and Alzheimer’s disease at a local university through a local career launch program.

By Joe Fasbinder / Special to The Malibu Times

Friendship and chance put Wren Saito and Crystallyn Kaplan together as young researchers at the Channel Islands Alzheimer’s Institute.

“We were friends involved in clubs at Malibu High School,” Kaplan said, in an interview from her home. “It was a coincidence that we decided to work in the Alzheimer’s program.”

“I found out about the internship program through my school counselor,” Saito said. “The program sounded interesting and challenging, and Crystallyn and I decided to enroll.”

Neither partner knew the other one had chosen the Alzheimer’s project at CSU Channel Islands.


Saito and Kaplan came to be interns with the program because they were involved with the Malibu Boys & Girls Club Career Launch Program set up with the Malibu Chamber of Commerce’s Education Committee run by Janet Laird. Through the program area businesses mentor Malibu students to help them gain valuable work experience before going off to college or into the work force.

CSUCI is just 14 miles from the Malibu city limits. It’s the newest campus in the California State University system, available to Malibu residents and others in surrounding areas. The university boasted 2,500 students in 2005 and projects an increase to more than 20,000 students by the year 2025. The university’s most sought after programs include education, psychology and art, with an expanding interest in the biology and chemistry departments. Since the Amgen Corporation gave CSUCI a $950,000 grant this year, and the Channel Islands Alzheimer’s Institute has been in full operation for more than a year, discovering new drug leads designed to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’m pleased that Malibu High students are showing an interest in [the institute],” Laird said. “By the end of the summer, Crystallyn and Wren may be able to report laboratory results in support of Alzheimer’s disease drug discovery.”

Gilbert M. Rishton, Ph.D., is the director of the Channel Islands Alzheimer’s Institute at CSUCI and is a mentor to the two young scientists.

“Wren and Crystallyn’s project can be summarized as the chemical conditioning of plant oils to provide new drug leads for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” he explained. “Their internships will provide them experience in laboratory techniques in organic chemistry and an inside look at the process of drug discovery.”

Will the program have an impact on what the young women plan to do with their lives? It will be a couple of years for Kaplan to find out. She’s a junior at Malibu High, while her friend Kaplan has already graduated.

“I have an interest in psychology and [the program] might help me in some of my career choices,” Kaplan said.

“I’m going to Whittier College next year,” Saito said. “Right now, my major is undeclared, but by the end of the summer I hope to have a greater sense of direction as to where I want to put my major. It has been an exciting year, and I am getting ready to decide where to go with my life. By the end of summer I will know more.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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