Buffalo, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo has been awarded
nearly $2 million from the National Institutes of Health to fund
the education of 20 new biomedical and behavioral scientists from
underrepresented groups between now and 2016.
The grant is part of the Initiative for Maximizing Student
Development (IMSD), a student development program for
research-intensive institutions funded by the National Institute of
General Medical Sciences.
UB is the only institution in New York State to be awarded an
IMSD grant for the biomedical and behavioral sciences; the state's
only other IMSD was previously awarded in the public health field
to Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. There are
44 such grants in the U.S.
This year, four new PhD students will be enrolled in UB's
program; the remaining students will be enrolled over the next four
years. Students admitted into UB's IMSD can enroll in any of the
following UB programs or departments: Biological Sciences,
Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry; Psychology; Department of
Pharmacology and Toxicology; Pharmaceutical Sciences, the PhD
program in Biomedical Sciences and the graduate division at Roswell
Park Cancer Institute.
UB mentors are from the School of Medicine and Biomedical
Sciences; the College of Arts and Sciences; the School of Dental
Medicine; the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
"Increasing the cultural, intellectual and economic diversity of
our graduate student body is critical to realizing our university's
ambitious academic vision, UB 2020—and essential to the
vitality of our university community and the national scholarly
community more broadly," says UB President Satish K. Tripathi.
Alexander N. Cartwright, PhD, UB vice president for research and
economic development notes: "This award recognizes our continued
efforts throughout the university to fully prepare talented
students for successful careers in scientific research. It
establishes UB as a member of a select group of institutions that
are dramatically transforming the education and training of
students from underrepresented groups. Ground-breaking research
always benefits from multiple perspectives -- this NIH award
provides a pathway for students to bring their unique perspectives
to their training and research at UB."
According to Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, principal
investigator on the new grant and chair of the Department of
Pharmacology and Toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and
Biomedical Sciences, institutions that applied for the IMSD had to
demonstrate a significant number of mentors with NIH or other
extramural research support.
"This is a university-wide endeavor," says Dubocovich "and these
mentors, who have successfully navigated the competitive world of
scientific research, will provide invaluable guidance to the new
doctoral students that this grant supports."
By designing individualized curriculums for each student and by
providing one-on-one faculty and peer tutoring and mentoring, as
well as workshops on scientific, academic and career development
issues, the program will provide an integrated and collaborative
learning atmosphere to ensure success during the crucial first few
years of the students' graduate education, Dubocovich says.
"We will bring students onto campus on July 1 of each year and
immediately form a mentoring committee for them," she explains. "It
is the mentors' job to make sure that the students do well and that
they are successful from day one."
A significant reason for UB's success in getting this grant is
its broad range of existing science-mentoring undergraduate
programs, which maximize the students' potential by establishing a
strong K-12 pipeline through partnerships with campus leaders and
an enthusiastic community of research mentors.
Such programs include CLIMB, (Collaborative Learning and
Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences) now in its fourth year, an
umbrella program Dubocovich founded at UB, that provides mentoring
experiences for biosciences students at the undergraduate,
graduate, postdoctoral and junior faculty levels.
Dubocovich was inspired to start that program because of her own
background growing up in rural Argentina, where advancing to
complete professional or scientific careers was not encouraged and
where it was expected that young adults, particularly women, were
expected to help their families. In that environment, Dubocovich
wondered if her interest and curiosity in science and the natural
world was somehow wrong. Now, she is learning that students from
underrepresented and diverse backgrounds often have similar
"It is very isolating," says Dubocovich, "you need people to
believe in you and to give you the right support and
In one case, she notes, a student interested in UB's CLIMB had
excellent academic and research credentials, but had learned all
his science in Spanish; now entering graduate school, he has to
relearn the terminology in English, something Dubocovich also
experienced when she came to the U.S. as a junior scientist. A head
start in the CLIMB program during the summer of freshman year helps
students like this polish their science language skills while
conducting research and preparing for a successful academic
That's an example of the hands-on approach the UB mentors are
taking to ensure student success.
"Here, students have very close connections to the faculty,"
says Raj V. Rajnarayanan, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology
and toxicology and associate director of UB's CLIMB for
undergraduate students. "In other schools' programs,
underrepresented students can be isolated and stereotyping of these
students still exists."
In addition to Dubocovich and Rajnarayanan, a co-investigator
on the NIH grant is Xiufeng Liu, PhD, professor of learning and
instruction in UB's Graduate School of Education.