Kennesaw State adding program to diversify biomedical sciences

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jul 12, 2022

Increasing diversity among students pursuing doctoral degrees in biomedical sciences is the aim of a federally funded program recently implemented at Kennesaw State University.

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Melanie Griffin and Martin Hudson

Professor of biology Martin Hudson and associate professor of biology Melanie Griffin in the College of Science and Mathematics received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish the Undergraduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (U-RISE) at Kennesaw State. The five-year grant is for $1,238,980. 

“This award recognizes exemplary leadership by Drs. Martin Hudson and Melanie Griffin in helping our college provide students the outstanding training in sciences that makes them highly sought after in the biomedical workforce,” said Kojo Mensa-Wilmot, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.

As part of U-RISE, researchers will focus on recruiting undergraduate students from underrepresented student populations, often first-generation college students and women.

“It is important for the biomedical sciences to better reflect the world at large, and that means a more diverse field of researchers,” Griffin said. “This is an opportunity for KSU to stand at the forefront of providing research opportunities for the biomedical scientists of the future.”

In 2010, the U.S. Census showed that Hispanic, Black and Indigenous Americans were 30% of the population, but just 9% of students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related doctoral programs.

“Bringing U-RISE to campus is an effort to address the disparity in the number of students from underrepresented populations that end up with Ph.D.s and M.D./Ph.D.s, starting at the undergraduate level,” Hudson said. “We’re recruiting good students, getting them lab training and then guiding them into being clever young scientists. In turn, those people can be role models in attracting others to follow in their steps.”

Griffin said KSU’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry will support the program by providing participants with faculty mentors and laboratory experience. Most biomedical Ph.D. programs attract students from those disciplines, though students from other majors would be welcomed into U-RISE.

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The U-RISE implementation began in April and already the first cohort of U-RISE students has spent part of the summer gaining laboratory experience.

U-RISE joins other diversity efforts in the sciences at Kennesaw State. The University also supports the Peach State Bridges to the Doctorate program, in which scholars pursue a master’s degree in integrative biology or chemical sciences. Hudson has brought undergraduate science majors into his lab under those auspices and was eager to collaborate with Griffin in bringing the U-RISE program to KSU. Griffin also directs the Kennesaw campus group of the NSF-funded Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, which provides research and mentoring opportunities for undergraduate STEM students from underrepresented communities.

— Dave Shelles
Photos by Matt Yung


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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.