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CONTACT: MELVIN O. SHAW
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e-mail: melvin-shaw@uiowa.edu

Release: June 19, 2000

Successful biosciences program now targets high school sophomores

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Beginning July 9 some 15 minority high school sophomores from across the nation will begin two weeks of study in the Iowa Biosciences Advantage Sophomore Training and Enrichment Program (IBA-STEP). Like the successful IBA program after which it is modeled, IBA-STEP was initiated to sustain ethnic minority students' interests in biomedical research.

While on campus IBA-STEP students will attend class and conduct research in the biosciences under the direction of a laboratory instructor and will take part in other IBA-designed program activities, including shadowing second-year IBA students in their laboratories.

Denita Gadson, IBA assistant director, says the IBA-STEP also is intended to be a continuation of high school sophomores' search for career choices and to give them chances to explore the UI as a place to pursue their academic studies.

She says there are biomedical research programs and activities for students in junior high and for high school juniors and seniors at the UI, but none existed for sophomores. For that reason, she says, IBA-STEP was created by the IBA program and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which also runs several summer UI programs.

Now entering its second year of a four-year grant funded by the National Institutes of Health, the IBA program has experienced much success, and on June 19 will admit its second class of nine students. The nine students, all of whom are incoming fall freshmen, will spend the next six weeks conducting lab research and taking IBA-designed coursework.

Twelve of the 14 IBA students who came to the UI as freshmen last June and spent an ensuing five weeks conducting research and studies in the program remain in it. On June 5 they resumed their research and college credit coursework, which includes lab work, taking courses in their majors, and taking an eight-week IBA-designed writing course especially for students in the biomedical sciences.

Since the last academic year, most students earned a minimum of 22 credit hours, with IBA courses making up only a few of those hours, says Gadson, who adds the students' majors are varied, and include biology, biomedical engineering, and pre-medicine.

"The purpose of the IBA program is to increase the enrollment and graduation rates of underrepresented minority students with degrees in biomedical science and ultimately to get these students enrolled in graduate school," she says.

The creation of IBA-STEP was a logical link in the IBA program's overall mission to attract and retain high-achieving students of color who have an interest in biomedical research, says Gadson. She says the IBA-STEP's short-term goals are to start the students thinking about science, what it means to be a scientist, and career choices.

"We want to whet the younger students' appetites for study and motivate them to think about starting and completing their undergraduate, and hopefully, graduate education at the UI," Gadson says. "We want them to become acclimated to the UI and Iowa City, and we want them to build a sense of community with students in other biosciences fields."

Gadson is pleased with the IBA program's early success, which she credits to strong support by the administration and faculty, and its attractiveness among students. Many incoming students indicated during their IBA admission interviews that their decision to attend the UI, in part, was due to the existence of the IBA program.

Students are selected based on their academic record, interview, personal essay and supporting letters.

An on-campus symposium is being planned for the fall that will allow the second-year IBA students to present their research papers or posters.