Tufts’ diversity program gives undergraduates experience in key health issues

Ten-week summer program provides career mentoring to students interested in biomedical research

Tufts University School of Medicine Biomedical Research & Public Health Building

BOSTON (July 12, 2016)—Seventeen undergraduate students from across the country are at Tufts University’s Boston campus for ten weeks this summer to participate in an intensive summer research experience focused on heart and lung diseases. The program, called Building Diversity in Biomedical Sciences (BDBS), provides research and career training to students typically under-represented in biomedical sciences. Based at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, it is specifically designed for trainees who plan to enter into Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. programs.

At the start of the program, each student is given a research project that he or she will work on throughout the summer. The students are guided by a faculty mentor, along with an assigned graduate student or post-doctoral fellow. At the end of the program, all of the students prepare poster presentations of their work for a judged poster session. The winners are awarded a trip to a national meeting in the fall where they present their summer work.

“Biomedical science is a rapidly-evolving field that holds promise for discoveries that will change the lives of people by improving detection and treatment of disease,” said Naomi Rosenberg, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. “Students who participate in the Building Diversity in Biomedical Sciences program get hands-on experience in basic and translational research.  Our program provides a rich summer research experience and in-depth career mentoring to talented undergraduates from traditionally under-served groups and prepares them for advanced study in biomedical research.”

According to Laura Liscum, Ph.D., professor of Integrative Physiology and Pathobiology at Tufts University School of Medicine who oversees the BDBS program, “we need a strong biomedical workforce that is prepared to address key health issues and this mentored initiative is helping to make that a reality.”

While the focus of the BDBS training program is the research experience, participants receive training in written and oral communication of scientific data and learn about careers in biomedical science through workshops. They are also given guidance in applying to Ph.D. and M.D./Ph.D. programs and interact with post-baccalaureate interns, graduate students and post-doctoral trainees to experience first-hand the process of preparing for a career in biomedical science.

The program, which began in 1992, accepts up to 22 students each year. BDBS provides stipends for the internship and lodging and pays for travel to and from Boston. Most of the students from outside the Boston area are housed in a dormitory on campus.  Program faculty have stayed in contact with nearly 88 percent of the alumni of the program, and found that 90 percent remain engaged in the biomedical workforce and 73 percent have entered advanced graduate training programs.

This year, the participating students include:

Sami Abujbarah - Avondale, AZ (Pomona College)
Sarah Dupont - Fairhaven, MA (UMASS Boston)
Rafael Hamawi - Waterbury, CT  (Assumption College)
Jessica Hernandez - West Roxbury, MA (Assumption College)
L. David Jaramillo - Cape Coral, FL (Williams College)
Ramses Long - Baltimore, MD (University of Maryland)
Mark MacRae -Pembroke, MA (UMASS Boston)
Kenechukwu Mbonu -Bowie, MD (University of Maryland)
Kennelia Mellanson - Stonybrook, NY (SUNY Stonybrook)
Marcelina Mendes - Dorchester, MA (Pine Manor College)
Charmaine Nganje - Montgomery Village, MD (Towson State University)
Eleni Papadopoulos - Roselle Park, NJ (Connecticut College)
Luis A. Reyes Pena - Gurabo, PR (UPR-Cayey)
Angelica Rivera Rosa - Gurabo, PR (UPR-Cayey)
Jilarie A. Santos Santiago - Carolina, PR (UPR-Humacao)
Dominique Shepard - Worcester, MA (Assumption College)
Katherine (Olivia) Yanes - Cincinnati, OH (Wellesley College)

The BDBS program is one of several pipeline programs offered by Tufts University School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences as part of a commitment by the schools to pursue initiatives that will diversify the applicant pool for academic programs in medicine and biomedical sciences and the related workforce.

BDBS is supported by an award (R25HL007785) from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institute of Health (NIH) and encourages applicants from members of groups that are under-represented in the biomedical sciences, which includes African-American, Hispanic-American or Latino/a, American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Pacific Islander, members of economically disadvantaged families, persons with disabilities, and students who are the first in their families to go to college.

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