Increasing Diversity in Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Students Target of New Colorado State University Collaboration

Colorado State University’s campuses in Pueblo and Fort Collins have partnered to create a new mentorship program to help minority students achieve advanced science degrees at both the masters and doctorate levels. The Bridges to the Doctorate mentoring program will directly address a need to produce a larger pool of qualified minority applicants for doctoral level research programs in biomedical science fields.

The grant represents one of the benefits of membership in the Colorado State University System and stands as a prime example of the ways the differences between the two schools strengthen each other, said Colorado State-Pueblo President Joseph Garcia.

"With this program, CSU-Pueblo students will gain the expertise and resources that a research university with doctoral-level programs can provide while Fort Collins will be enhanced by our diverse student population," Garcia said.

The program is funded through a three-year, $595,700 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

CSU-Pueblo has a large ethnic minority population, with 25 percent of the student body being of Hispanic origins, 4 percent African-American and 2 percent Native American. However, relatively few of these students continue beyond baccalaureate training into biomedical science programs. The Bridges to the Doctorate program will recruit under-represented minority students who have the potential to become independent research scientists into the Applied Natural Science masters program at Colorado State-Pueblo. Faculty from both schools will mentor the students with the goal of providing a successful transition from the master’s program in Pueblo to the doctoral program in Fort Collins.

"This program is ideally suited to take advantage of the strengths of both Colorado State campuses," said Rick Miranda, dean of the College of Natural Sciences in Fort Collins. "Bridges to the Doctorate will provide exceptional students the support they need to make a critical transition in their development into well-trained research scientists."

Two groups of four students will be selected to be part of the program, which will currently span three years. Participants of the Bridges to the Doctorate program will receive fully-funded support worth $20,000 over one year plus a scholarship covering tuition and fees, a laptop computer and travel to scientific meetings. Travel expenses for faculty also will be covered.

Students will complete their master’s degree over two years at Colorado State-Pueblo while taking part in three four-week summer sessions on the Fort Collins campus. The first summer session will be a pre-master’s degree program that includes two or three laboratory rotations on the Pueblo campus, visits to labs on the Fort Collins campus, identifying students’ research interests and identifying faculty mentors. After the first year of their graduate program on the Pueblo campus, students will return for a second summer session on the Fort Collins campus for scientific and research integrity workshops. Annette Gabaldon, associate professor of biology in the College of Science and Mathematics at Colorado State-Pueblo, is the director for the program at that institution.  

Before the third summer session, each participant will complete their master’s program research, identify a Ph.D. mentor and apply for a Ph.D. program in Fort Collins and write a manuscript for publication in a scientific journal. The third summer session is a pre-doctoral program in which students will write a draft of a Ph.D. research proposal as they prepare for Ph.D. coursework commencing in the fall semester.

"This is part of our efforts to increase the number of under-represented minorities pursuing a doctorate," said Don Mykles, associate dean of graduate education in Colorado State’s College of Natural Sciences and director of the new program. "Students with the potential to be research scientists are lost at educational transitions. The idea is to address these transitions and minimize losses. The involvement of faculty from both campuses will smooth the transition."