UC Berkeley launches new PREP program for URM biomedical students
For many first-generation and underrepresented students, graduate school still seems like a “long shot”. UC Berkeley has now received a ~$2 million award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH/NIGMS) to support and encourage underrepresented students to continue their academic training and obtain postgraduate degrees. The focus is on preparation, gaining experience in the laboratory and learning skills that are critical for success in graduate school.
The UC Berkeley Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP@UC Berkeley) program will provide 5 recent Graduates from underrepresented groups with hands-on research experience, mentoring and a stipend. This will strengthen their candidacy for admission to the nation’s strongest Ph.D. programs, and prepare them to succeed in the biomedical sciences. The first scholars will begin in June 2022. Julia Schaletzky, PhD, executive director of the Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases (CEND), will lead the program with Gian Garriga, PhD, Professor of Genetics, Genomics and Development. PREP@UC Berkeley will be administered by CEND, which has a 10 years track record of successfully running NIH-sponsored initiatives for underrepresented students.
“Our PREP program has three main components” explained Schaletzky. “The first is to provide exceptional research opportunities to underrepresented recent college graduates, with more than 30 diverse faculty mentors with broad research interests supporting the program”.
The second, Schaletzky continues, is “empowerment of scholars by professional development and mentoring. The third is community building”. CEND will host workshops tailored to the students’ needs, including professional development, coaching on the graduate school application process, and personal growth such as understanding and counteracting self-limiting beliefs. “Our goal is to find tools to optimally support and empower each student to reach their potential in the sciences.” Each PREP scholar will be trained and mentored by a senior graduate student or postdoc, the professor of the lab, the program director, and others.
Both Schaletzky and Garriga credit the support they received as undergraduates for their success in graduate school and beyond. “An eye-opener for me was one of my black Graduate student peers telling me that he would have never considered graduate school had his advisor not pointed it out to him; he turned out to be a real star in the lab, going on to have a successful faculty career”, Schaletzky says. Dr. Garriga has had some experience as a nontraditional student. After college, he spent several years working as a roofing contractor before taking an undergraduate parasitology course on a whim. If it wasn’t for the parasitology professor who took an interest in the atypical student and a biochemist who took the risk of taking the student into his lab, Garriga would not be a scientist today. “I know every one of our students can get into Grad school given the right guidance,” Garriga says.
Applications for 2022/23 are currently open – for more information and to apply, click here.