UCR promotes minority student access to STEM fields

Courtesy of UCR Today

With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), UC Riverside has bestowed a $30,000 stipend and a full-ride scholarship to nine UC Riverside graduate students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. The goal of the funds is to promote involvement and attract more underrepresented minority students to STEM fields. The funds are part of a two-year, $988,000 training grant that is distributed by the California Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Bridge to the Doctorate (CAMP-BD).

“We also have a strong need for next generation scientists, engineers and educators with Ph.D.s who are underrepresented minorities. The CAMP-BD awards aim at closing the gap. We awarded six fellowships last quarter. We are pleased to be able to add three more students to the mix this quarter, “ stated Rich Cardullo, the grant’s lead investigator at UC Riverside, in an article by the UC Riverside Newsroom. Mackenzie Alvarez (chemistry), Jesse Benavides (mathematics), Carla De Los Santos (bioengineering), Eddie Laguna (chemistry), Abdullah Madany (biomedical sciences), Maricela Maldonado (bioengineering), Irma Ortiz (botany and plant sciences) and Jessamine Quijano  (microbiology) were chosen for the awards. Many of these graduate students are  first-generation college students who have indicated a desire to become university professors and researchers.
“Last year, UCR applied for this grant through NSF and was awarded the grant to fund up to 12 students who met the requirements,” stated Cardullo in an interview with the Highlander. “CAMP-BD gives not only two years of financial support for each fellow that is selected but also provides them with professional development support, access to research activities, and networking possibilities with other STEM professionals.” According to Cardullo, UC Riverside had previously received CAMP awards (the California-specific version of the award) but this year was the first year that it received CAMP-BD awards.

As a part of the grant, recipients will be involved in outreach efforts made to enlighten local youth on the value of a college education and the importance of STEM fields. “At UCR, our CAMP-BD fellows will also be involved in outreach activities that will support not only undergraduates at UCR but also K-12 students in the surrounding communities who may not be familiar with the benefits of higher education and, more importantly, understand that such opportunities are available and accessible to them,” stated Cardullo.  Award-recipient Philip Soto was especially fond of this aspect of the program, stating, “It also provides me with opportunities to mentor other students.  This will help me reach out to the community and grow as an individual.”

Cardullo pointed out that the grant would ease the financial burden faced by graduate students and improve the likelihood of a student’s desire to pursue a Ph.D. “The CAMP-BD program allowed me to get into a Ph.D. program right out of undergraduate school rather than having to do twice the work and spend twice the money, obtaining a master’s first and then a Ph.D.,” noted Mackenzie Alvarez in an article by the UC Riverside Newsroom.

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