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Universities Collaborate on Program to Increase Minority Science Students

Increasing the number of minority students who pursue graduate-level science education is the aim of a collaborative effort between Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) and North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

The new Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) provides minority students one to two years of research experience and the opportunity to take graduate-level science courses in preparation for applying to graduate school. Faculty members from the three universities serve as student mentors.

Debra Diz, Ph.D., professor in the Hypertension and Vascular Disease Center at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, was awarded $2.1 million from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to create the program.

"PREP addresses the fact that minority students are underrepresented nationwide in programs that award doctorate degrees in biomedical sciences," said Diz. "The program is an individualized approach to provide research experience and academic enhancements to ensure the success of students when they enter graduate school."

The program is part of several ongoing initiatives headed by Gordon Melson, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Wake Forest University, to increase minority student enrollment in graduate-level programs.

Azeez Aileru, Ph.D., WSSU assistant professor of neurophysiology in the Department of Life Sciences, and Allyn Howlett, Ph.D., professor at the Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute at NCCU, are members of the research team''s executive committee.

"The significance of this program is that it extends the training of minority students who want to obtain their doctoral degrees in biomedical research," said Aileru, who also serves as program mentor. "I am most excited that this program will benefit students from WSSU."

Howlett said, "The program is part of several other initiatives to strengthen ties with Wake Forest University by providing a smooth transition to graduate school in the biomedical sciences for students from underrepresented minority populations."

Exazevia Logan, a 1999 WSSU biology graduate from Lake Lure, is one of the program''s first enrollees. He works in Aileru''s laboratory in the Piedmont Triad Community Research Center, assisting with hypertension research. Logan plans to pursue a career in biomedical research.

"This program gave me the opportunity to do research at one of the best research schools in the country," said Logan. "I plan to apply to the neuroscience program at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. PREP enables me to become familiar with the campus, faculty, staff and students. That''s very important in the transition to graduate school and, of course a plus in the admission process."

Three other students are working in the laboratories of mentors in the Biology Department at Wake Forest University or the Biochemistry Department at the School of Medicine. Beginning in August 2002, the program will fund 12 students.

Students may take up to two graduate-level courses per year. They are paid $21,000 a year. To be eligible, students must have a grade point average of at least 2.5 and have received an undergraduate degree within the past three years. For more information, call Debra Diz at 336-716-2150 or Ms. Teretha Duren at 336-716-1080. ###

Media Contacts Wake Forest: Karen Richardson, (336) 716-4453, krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu Winston-Salem State: Aaron Singleton, (336) 750-3152, singletona@wssu.edu N.C. Central: Sharon Saunders, (919) 560-6295, ssaunders@wpo.nccu.edu

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