A Successful Program to Attract and Retain Minority Doctoral Students in the Life Sciences

brownA new study by researchers at Brown University finds that efforts to boost the participation of Blacks and other minorities in Ph.D. programs in the sciences can be successful.

The study, published in the journal CBE-Life Sciences Education, examines the record of the Initiative to Maximize Student Development in life sciences Ph.D. program, instituted at Brown University four years ago. The authors report that the program has resulted in an increase in the number of minority applicants to these programs, higher enrollments, students with higher GPAs and test scores being admitted, improved retention rates, and higher rates of publication by minority students in doctoral program in life science fields.

The initiative has three main components. First, Brown formed partnerships with minority-serving institutions to funnel graduate students to Brown. Second, a series of mini courses were developed to help build research and other skills necessary for doctoral studies, and finally graduate faculty were recruited to act as advisers and mentors to minority students admitted to doctoral programs in the life sciences.

Since the program began the percentage of all doctoral students in the life sciences who are members of underrepresented minority groups has increased from 17 percent to 23 percent. In the 2011-12 academic year, all nine life science doctoral programs at Brown had minority students. Four years earlier, only five of the nine programs had minority students.

AndrewCampbellAndrew Campbell, an associate professor in the department of molecular microbiology and immunology and one of the authors of the study, stated, “The pool of really good students is out there and we’re getting them.” Dr. Campbell is a graduate of York College of the City University of New York. He earned a Ph.D. in biology from the University of California at Los Angeles.


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