Public Release: 

$1.5 million grant to help MSU educate more Hispanics in neurosciences

Grant expands partnership between MSU, Univeristy of Puerto Rico

Michigan State University

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A $1.5 million federal grant will help Michigan State University increase the number of Hispanic doctoral students trained in the neurosciences.

The grant -- from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a division of the National Institutes of Health -- serves as an extension of an MSU partnership with the University of Puerto Rico-Cayey.

"This program provides a unique opportunity not only for students from the University of Puerto Rico but also other underrepresented minority students to receive higher education in neuroscience," said William Atchison, professor of pharmacology and toxicology and principal investigator on the grant. "The program serves as a segue into biomedical research, which is seldom even considered as a career choice by Puerto Rican students.

"Our goal is to facilitate entry of students into the doctoral program in neuroscience and enhance the likelihood of their success."

The students from the University of Puerto Rico-Cayey will travel to MSU as undergraduates and spend two summers preparing for graduate school while undertaking research projects as part of the Ronald McNair Summer Research Program. The program pairs students with faculty mentors who guide them through the research process.

Students also are taught scientific writing and mentored in writing English.

"Identifying talented undergraduate students, establishing a strong mentoring relationship and introducing them to research and expectations for graduate education is an important step in establishing a successful pipeline for neuroscience scholars," said Doug Estry, associate provost for undergraduate education.

After two summers on campus, the students return to take nine credits before applying for the graduate program in neuroscience at MSU.

"We have been working with the University of Puerto Rico-Cayey for more than 12 years as a part of the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement, which is supported by a National Institutes of Health award to develop undergraduate students with biomedical research skills," Atchison said. "Building off these relationships allows us to leverage our connections to Hispanic-serving universities as a way to efficiently, and effectively, increase diversity in neurosciences."

The $1.5 million grant also will fund the graduate students for the first two years while they begin their doctorate studies. Atchison said the intent is to facilitate the students' application for their own pre-doctoral fellowships.

"A critical factor in maintaining the strength of our scientific community lies in increasing the diversity of its participants," said Rich Schwartz, associate dean for graduate studies in the College of Natural Science. "This grant will help establish a strong system for enhancing the diversity of scientists in the neurosciences and, more broadly, in the life sciences community.

"Extending our community of scientists is key to new discoveries, expanded learning and solving the world's most difficult problems," Schwartz added.

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