The Richmond Register

November 5, 2012

EKU, UK partner with NIH for biomedical doctoral program


Special to the Register

RICHMOND — Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky have launched a joint initiative to help prepare students for success in doctoral degree programs and for careers in biomedical research.

Funded by a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Kentucky Bridge to a Biomedical Doctorate for Appalachian Students program will allow students from the Appalachian region, especially those from economically distressed counties, as well as students from under-represented groups, to attain a master’s degree at EKU in either chemistry or biological sciences while performing bio-medical related research.

“The program will give these students an opportunity to further develop into scientists while at the same time giving them knowledge and skills to transition to a Ph.D. program in biomedical science,” explained Dr. Darrin Smith, associate professor of chemistry and coordinator of EKU’s Office of Undergraduate Research. “Students will be able to dedicate their attention to this program through the financial support provided for tuition, books and a stipend.”

Smith said the program targets both current EKU students and soon-to-be high school graduates, adding that the University is “working to have applicants be reviewed and start in the Spring 2013 semester.”

Mentors at both EKU and UK will work together to provide a research-intensive, rigorous master’s level educational experience that, in addition to the coursework, includes training in grant writing, oral and written presentation skills and ethical conduct of research, as well as seminars and opportunities for students to present their research at regional and national meetings. Upon completion of the master’s degree program at EKU, “Kentucky Bridge” students will have the opportunity to transition to the UK Integrated Biomedical Sciences program, where they can pursue doctoral studies in biomedical research.

The program involves a specific and planned curriculum for incoming students to keep them on task with attaining their degree at EKU,” Smith said. “In addition, the program will have workshops and seminars for students to learn more about multiple career options they may not have considered as possibilities. Working with faculty mentors, these students will gain valuable insight with academic research, obtain knowledge on funding agencies and grant writing, as well as become part of a larger scientific community. All these opportunities will allow students to develop into effective scientific leaders to address and tackle global challenges.”

Smith said the goal of the program is to “dramatically increase the number of students interested in bio-medical science research that can foster a community of scholars capable of producing advancements in the field. The first generation of EKU Bridge scholars can serve as an example for future generations from the region that opportunities for quality instruction and research in bio-medical science are available to them. An increase of these scholars in our region also has the potential to initiate economic growth with respect to biotechnology.”

Smith credited EKU colleagues Dr. Tanea Reed, chemistry; Dr. Rebekah Waikel, biology; and Dr. Marcia Pierce, biology, as well as counterparts at UK for their “essential contributions to the success of the grant.”

For more information about the Kentucky Bridge Scholar program, contact Dr. Marcia Pierce, EKU Bridge Scholar director, at marcia.pierce@eku.edu or 622-1535.

A website, www.bridgescholar.eku.edu, is under development.