Bridges to the Doctorate program continues to prepare students for Ph.D. programs

Students not only earn master’s degrees, but also get valuable research and mentorship experience

By Kyle Hobstetter on June 23, 2022

Bridges to the Doctorate students, faculty and staff
Students, faculty and staff who are a part of the Bridges to the Doctorate program. (Alex Wright / Towson University) 

Back in 2017, the Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics’ Department of Biological Sciences was awarded a $1.3 million grant, in partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), to create the Bridges to the Doctorate (B2D) program.

Five years later, the program is still going strong and helping graduate students from Towson University pursue doctoral programs all across the country.

This spring, three B2D program students graduated from TU and will move into doctorate programs next fall. In their time at TU, these newest alumnae were recognized for their award-winning research on colon cancer, won awards as part of the American Association of Immunologists, and had research paper published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal.

“Our goal is to change the face of STEM, specifically in doctoral programs,” says Trudymae Agboka, who serves as the student success program coordinator for the B2D program. “The goal is to prep them [at TU] so they are better prepared when they enter doctoral programs.”

Read More: The Bridges to the Doctorate Program is officially announced

Led by associate professors Elana Ehrlich, Ph.D., and Michelle Snyder, Ph.D., the B2D program partners with TU’s Graduate Studies program and UM SOM to enhance diversity and increase underrepresented minorities in the biomedical profession.

Funded by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), the B2D program supports three to four students per year who complete a master’s degree in biology at TU before moving to complete a Ph.D. at UMSOM or another institution.

Learn more about the NIGMS Bridges to the Doctorate Program 

While enrolled at TU, B2D students are provided tuition waivers, salary and funding to travel to research conferences, such as the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists.

“They took the tools that we've given them and they utilized it and their hard work paid off,” Agboka says. “We’re so proud of them. They show that this program works by giving them the resources they need. It just makes me feel like a proud mama.”

Students also attend regular seminars at TU and UMSOM and network with seminar speakers, participate in near-peer mentoring, receive research and professional development training and complete a four-week mini rotation in an UMSOM lab.

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

Meet the 2022 Bridges to the Doctorate graduating class

Cheyenne Palm

Cheyenne Palm

After graduating with her master’s degree this spring, Palm will join the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Ph.D. program.

“The Bridges to the Doctorate program has provided me with a much-needed community. Going through grad school on its own is very difficult and challenging, so having a group of support around me, as well as people who have similar goals, has been a really good motivation in pushing me to my next step. All the things that I learned at Towson University are going to be essential in moving forward.” 

Zeguela Kamagate

Zeguela Kamagate

Kamagate graduated with both her bachelor’s and master’s degree from Towson University. This fall, Kamagate will begin a Ph.D. program at the University of Virginia.

“The Bridges to the Doctorate program has meant everything to me. It’s literally the best decision I’ve ever made for my academic career, because the mentorship was absolutely incredible. Me and my fellow cohorts were so successful in applying to Ph.D. programs because of the advice that we received from Dr. Ehrlich and. Dr. Snyder. This program has meant everything in terms of preparing me and everyone for our next steps.”

Amerria Causey

Amerria Causey

After graduating with a master’s degree this spring, Causey will join the Ph.D. Program in Virology at Harvard University’s Division of Medical Sciences this fall.

“I can say that the Bridges to the Doctorate program was the single most important thing that got me into the next level of education. When I finished my undergrad at another university, I didn’t have any research experience. But moving to Towson, I got that hands-on research experience where I’m not only researching but I’m in charge of my research and leading my research.”