CONTACT: MARY GERAGHTY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: April 8, 1999
UI wins $2-million grant to promote careers in biomedical
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa has won a $2-million
grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish a program to encourage
minority students to pursue careers in biomedical research. The grant will
support a new UI program called The Iowa Biosciences Advantage, which will
offer research opportunities, academic support, and faculty mentoring to minority
students who are interested in biomedical research and who have demonstrated
interest and ability in high school math and science.
Peter Nathan, a UI professor of psychology and the principal
investigator for the grant, said he has heard "a lot of enthusiasm from the
faculty about starting this program." Faculty support will be crucial he said,
because students in the program will need faculty mentors and will collaborate
with faculty on research projects. In addition, faculty members will assist
with recruiting students to the program by developing relationships with high
school teachers in Iowa and the Midwest in order to identify students who
have the potential for careers in biomedical research.
"The high school teachers know these students well," Nathan
said. "We need them to help us find the students who have the skills and the
desire to take their interest in math and science to the highest level of
research. I've been pleased with the willingness of faculty to serve as mentors
Christopher Squier, a UI professor of oral pathology and
associate dean for research in the College of Dentistry, worked with Nathan
on developing the program and said he believes it can introduce students to
career paths they might not otherwise know about.
"There are remarkably few minority students going into
graduate biomedical science," Squier said. "To have high school teachers aware
of the opportunity we are offering so that they can look out for students
to join the program is very important. We need to be starting earlier to make
students aware of the career opportunities in biosciences."
The Iowa Biosciences Advantage is a four-year program
in which students will be introduced to research and laboratory methods as
freshmen and will perform research with faculty mentors beginning the summer
before their first year on campus. By their junior year, students will work
on their own research projects under the direction of their faculty mentors.
Students will receive career counseling about opportunities in biomedical
research as well as assistance in preparing for graduate school entrance exams.
Michael Barron, UI director of admissions, said the breadth
of the UI program makes it unique. At many universities it would be difficult
if not impossible for undergraduates to work with the top researchers in medical
sciences because the medical school is located away from the main undergraduate
"We have all the ingredients for a top-notch program right
here in Iowa City," he said. "Our integrated program will connect senior,
nationally-known researchers with undergraduate students, giving them unparalleled
opportunities for mentorship and laboratory experience. We have already seen
a great deal of interest in this program, and we have every reason to believe
it will be very successful."
Nathan said the program will accept up to 20 students
each year. He said the additional support the program offers will allow more
students who enter the UI planning to major in math or science to fulfill
that goal and graduate after four years with a science major and a strong
research background that will propel them into graduate school.
"Our efforts are part of a national effort to solve a
pipeline problem that is, not enough minority students are pursuing
careers in biomedical research," Nathan said. "Here they will have an enriched
undergraduate experience that is built on the University of Iowa's existing
strength in graduate biomedical science. We will be exploiting that strength
for the benefit of our undergraduate scholars."