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Healing Opportunities for Diverse Students

A $2.8 million NIH grant increases support of an SDSU program that prepares students for doctoral and science careers worldwide.
The Initiative for Maximizing Student Development program at SDSU supports 30 students studying in the fields of biomedical and behavioral sciences.
The Initiative for Maximizing Student Development program at SDSU supports 30 students studying in the fields of biomedical and behavioral sciences.

A San Diego State University program that prepares underrepresented students to become doctors and scientists is doubling in size thanks to a federal grant.

Funded by a $2.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development supports 30 students studying in the fields of biomedical and behavioral sciences.

The SDSU program, now extended through 2017, is the only one of its kind in the California State University system.

“Spanning across multiple colleges and disciplines, this intensive program prepares junior and senior-level students for competitive doctoral, research and leadership careers in the biomedical and behavioral research fields,” said program director William Tong, a chemistry professor at SDSU.

Program leadership

Under the advisory of two of the university’s distinguished researchers, students are given top-notch guidance, research and advancement opportunities.

Tong, who has been awarded major research grants from a wide range of funding agencies, has discovered and patented novel laser methods that have potential applications for earlier detection of diseases, better design of cleaner drugs and more sensitive detection of pollutants and chemicals both inside the human body and in the environment. His research projects have garnered local, national and international attention.

“My mentor ... has been critical
in advancing my education and career.”

Sanford Bernstein, program co-director and professor of biology at SDSU, conducts both independent and collaborative research with national and international experts. He studies human cardiac and skeletalmuscle diseases and a protein important in combating muscle stress. Bernstein is a campus leader who has served as the chair, director and board member of several campus committees.

Well-rounded

Program scholars are involved in year-round academic and professional development activities, including academic mentoring from faculty experts.

They participate in internships, scientific seminars and local and national conferences – unique research opportunities for undergraduate students.

Students apply directly to Ph.D. programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as well as psychology, public health and speech language and hearing sciences.

Since 1992, the program has provided financial assistance to student researchers with diverse backgrounds. Many are first-generation college students, minorities or female students studying in a male-dominated science field.

Student to career

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Program students, from left, Kristen Frosio (psychology), Alicia Zamudio (biology/psychology) and Liz Travis (ecology), are honored at a research conference in October.

SDSU senior psychology major, Kristen Frosio, is Native-American and a first-generation college student. Frosio’s support from the program has afforded her the opportunity to focus on research and field experience instead of working to make ends meet.

“This year I will have presented at three national conferences, submitted a manuscript for publication and helped to develop a new clinical tool,” Frosio said. “My mentor, SDSU psychology professor Nader Amir, has been critical in advancing my education and career.”

More than 50 faculty members conducting top research in their fields at SDSU have committed to mentor students in the program.

Thirty SDSU alumni who graduated from the program have gone on to complete a Ph.D., one of whom earned a M.D/Ph.D. Other graduates have completed master’s degrees, are post-doctoral fellows and are teaching or employed in the biomedical and behavioral sciences around the world.

Becoming an IMSD scholar

The Biomedical Exploratory Program, newly funded under the grant, introduces freshman and sophomore students from underrepresented groups to the research program. BEP scholars become highly competitive applicants for a junior and senior-level program-funded position.

Application to the IMSD and BEP programs are open to all majors in the Colleges of Sciences and Engineering who are interested in biomedical research.

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