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Exciting news traveled fast in the fall of 2014, as the National Institutes of Health announced a major award of $21.2 million to Wayne State University and its partnering institutions. The charge: Implement a program that encouraged undergraduate students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue careers in biomedical research.
The five-year award is called REBUILD Detroit — an acronym for Research Enhancement for Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity. Wayne State serves as the research partner with the other consortium members, University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College. In this role, Wayne State mentors faculty from other institutions in research skills; provides research-training opportunities; and offers REBUILD scholars skills development in grant applications, graduate school preparedness, and networking opportunities.
Looking back on the program, which launched more than a year ago, Ambika Mathur, dean of Wayne State’s Graduate School and principal investigator of the award, said she is pleased and optimistic about the progress and direction of REBUILD Detroit. “It is very exciting to see the effect of the program on our participating students. They are literally right out of high school and eager to get started,” Mathur said. “Their growth and development has exceeded all of our expectations.”
The first cohort class of 17 students has maintained an impressive GPA. In the fall 2015, they collectively had a 3.5 GPA average, while the following winter semester saw the average increase to 3.68. This increase comes despite the challenges students regularly face related to juggling their academic course load with part-time work schedules. “I was particularly impressed with the students’ level of maturity — their willingness to seek help through their mentors and collaboration with other students — in order to become successful and achieve their goals,” Mathur stated.
Looking to the upcoming cohort of 14 students, Mathur expects a continuation of successful outcomes. “All of our students are on track to graduate in approximately four years, carrying 32 to 35 credits per year. A large percentage will graduate in biomedical science-related fields, and others will matriculate into biomedical research doctoral programs. Either way, it’s a win-win situation.”
For more information about the REBUILD Detroit program, including application materials, visit wayne.edu/gradschool/build/.