TU partners with UM SOM to help advance minority students in the biomedical research field

By Megan Bradshaw on September 19, 2017

The $1.3 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Science is one of 15 in the United States and the only one in Maryland.

Associate professor Elana Ehrlich is TU's principal investigator on the grant.
Associate professor Elana Ehrlich is TU's principal investigator on the grant.

Towson University Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics Department of Biological Sciences associate professors Elana Ehrlich, Ph.D., and Michelle Snyder, Ph.D., have been awarded a $1.3 million grant over five years, in partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM), to create a “Bridges to the Doctorate” (B2D) program.

TU and UM SOM’s grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences is one of 15 in the United States and the only one in Maryland. It is part of a total $3.5 million in grants awarded Fisher College faculty since July 1, 2017. 

The B2D program partners graduate programs at TU and UM SOM to enhance diversity and increase underrepresented minorities in the biomedical profession. Underrepresented minorities are the fastest-growing populations in the U.S. but make up only a small percentage of the biomedical research workforce.

Recent research shows that significantly more URM students complete a master’s degree on their way to a doctoral degree than others, which suggests URM master’s programs are an important pool from which to recruit minority Ph.D. candidates. 

Michelle Snyder head shot
Associate professor Michelle Snyder is TU's co-principal investigator.

The B2D program will support three to four students per year who will complete a master’s in biology at TU before moving to complete a Ph.D. at UM SOM or another institution. During the program, B2D scholars will attend regular seminars at TU and UM SOM and network with seminar speakers, participate in near-peer mentoring, receive research and professional development training and complete a four-week mini rotation in a UM SOM lab, among other activities. 

Bret Hassel head shot
Bret Hassel, Ph.D., an associate professor of microbiology and immunology and the UM SOM co-principal investigator

 

Ehrlich and Snyder—TU’s co-principal investigators—will work directly with Bret Hassel, Ph.D., an associate professor of microbiology and immunology and the UM SOM co-principal investigator. Hassel coordinates the program’s School of Medicine components, provides mentors and summer research experiences and professional development opportunities.

“This program pairs TU’s strength in mentoring with an immersion experience at an excellent research-focused institution,” said Ehrlich. “This allows the students to be highly competitive candidates to further their studies and make informed career decisions.”

This latest grant connects minority-focused STEM training programs such as the Center for STEM Excellence, new programs created through the recent $1 million Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant and Bridges to Baccalaureate programs at TU to create a pipeline that spans secondary through post-graduate education. 

“This Bridges [to the Doctorate] program will enable Towson University and the Fisher College to recruit many exceptional students and prepare them academically to succeed in top doctoral programs,” said David Vanko, dean of TU’s Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics. “We envision an exciting future where doctoral research is carried out by an increasingly diverse community of scientists.”

The first cohort of B2D students began their coursework at the start of the fall 2017 term. In addition to attending seminars and classes, they have already started developing their thesis projects.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland & Strategic Plan Alignment