Graduate School wins grant to recruit, retain minority students

SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 13, 2011) — The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio has captured a $1.6 million grant to train the next generation of talented and diverse scientific innovators.

The grant, from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), focuses on recruiting and retaining under-represented minority students. The award supports seven under-represented minority students a year for five years but also translates into programs that are open to all students in the Graduate School.

It provides enrichment courses for first-year minority students, individualized mentoring plans, and professional development workshops to prepare students for independent research.

The grant is already being put to use, said Nicquet Blake, Ph.D., lead principal investigator. The award funded three summer classes in molecular biology, critical thinking and biochemistry for entering graduate students.

“The most positive thing about this grant is it allows us to continue to develop the graduate program and it helps us to be active participants in the training of the next generation of minority students,” said Dr. Blake, who serves as assistant dean for graduate student recruitment in the Graduate School.

Six of the seven under-represented minority students supported by the NIGMS grant this academic year are from Texas. “Over the last three years we have recruited about 60 percent of our students from Texas,” Dr. Blake said.

Forty-two percent of incoming students in the Graduate School’s Integrated Multidisciplinary Graduate Program are from groups under-represented in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics, she noted.

This summer’s molecular biology class enrolled 19 students and was taught by David Kolodrubetz, Ph.D., professor of microbiology, with Jennifer Parrott, second-year doctoral student, and Erika Lackey, third-year doctoral student.

James Lechleiter, Ph.D., and Susan Naylor, Ph.D., professors of cellular and structural biology, taught the critical thinking class attended by 18 students. Four biochemistry faculty, Dmitri Ivanov, Ph.D., Susan Weintraub, Ph.D., Lee McAlister-Henn, Ph.D., and Paul Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., taught the biochemistry class to 14 students.

The grant is from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, GM095480, to Nicquet Blake, Ph.D., and Robert Reddick, M.D., principal investigators.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $228 million in fiscal year 2010. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit

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