Bridging the gap in the biomedical sciences

Long-running program introduces undergraduates from backgrounds underrepresented in medicine and science to biomedical research, mentors in the field

BOSTON (July 17, 2017)—Eighteen undergraduate students are visiting Tufts University’s Health Sciences campus for 10 weeks of scientific seminars, research, workshops, mentoring and activities across Boston to learn more about careers in the biomedical sciences. The Building Diversity in Biomedical Sciences (BDBS) program provides students who typically come from backgrounds underrepresented in the biomedical sciences with valuable research and career training to assist them in taking the next step in their education.

Each summer, the program, which is based at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts, welcomes 17-22 students who are interested in pursuing Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. studies. Over the course of the 10 weeks, each student works closely with two mentors—one faculty member, one graduate student or postdoctoral fellow—while he or she completes a research project that will be presented at a judged poster competition at the end of the program. The students with the winning posters will receive a trip to a national meeting the following fall to present their work.

In addition to the research and career training, BDBS participants learn presentation skills, the tenets of responsible conduct of research, and how to work productively as a member of a team. A survey of over 200 recent participants reveals that approximately 75 percent have gone on to pursue advanced degrees.

Mara Shainheit, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological sciences at Towson University, participated in BDBS and later returned to Tufts to earn her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She now recommends BDBS to her undergraduate students, one of whom is taking part this summer.

“I participated in BDBS because I was looking for an immersive research experience before I finished college. As soon as you connect with your Tufts mentors, you are surrounded by people who support and encourage you while you’re learning. I gained hands-on experience because my mentors were hands-on,” said Shainheit.

“The excitement goes both ways,” said Joyce A. Sackey, M.D., dean for multicultural affairs and global health at Tufts University School of Medicine. “The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences is resolutely student-focused, and Tufts wants to train whoever wants to work in a lab, whether they’re here for a few weeks or a few years. Finding answers to important biomedical questions is a collaborative effort and one that benefits from a range of backgrounds. Anyone who wants to work hard toward finding answers is welcomed enthusiastically into this community.”  

The students participating in this year’s program, which began on May 30, are:

  • Wilanyi Alvarez Reyes – Cidra, PR (University of Puerto Rico-Cayey)
  • Annabel Azziz – New York (Fordham University)
  • Jordan Bauer – Woodbury, CT (Wheaton College)
  • Emily Bruder – Breezy Point, NY (Fordham University)
  • Veronica Canarte – Baltimore, MD (Towson University)
  • Mildred Devereux – Silver Spring, MD (DePaul University)
  • Karolina Dzieminski – Webster, MA (Assumption College)
  • Brittany Goncalves – Boston (Assumption College)
  • Nafissa Johnson – Woburn, MA (Spelman College)
  • Tony Jou – Arcadia, CA (National Yang Ming University)
  • Micah Maglasang – Miami, FL (Pomona College)
  • Kevin March – Springfield, MO (University of Missouri-Kansas City)
  • Khadija Moctar – Northridge, CA (CSU Northridge)
  • Veronica Morales – Gurabo, PR (University of Puerto Rico-Cayey)
  • Rachael Nilson – Mansfield, MA (Roger Williams University)
  • Sarah Tran – Simi Valley, CA (Pomona College)
  • Najah Walton – Boston (UMass Boston)
  • Hsin-Yeong (Sabrina) Yen – Irvine, CA (National Yang Ming University)

BDBS, which began welcoming students onto campus in 1990, 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. Tufts offers pipeline programs for students in middle school, high school and college, as well as college graduates.

BDBS is supported by an award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (R25HL007785) and encourages applications from members of groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical sciences, which includes African Americans, Hispanic Americans or Latino/a, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Hawaiian Natives, and natives of the U.S. Pacific Islands, members of economically disadvantaged families, persons with disabilities, and students who are the first in their families to go to college. BDBS has received funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1992.

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