Duke receives $1.2 million NIH grant to fund new biomedical science postbaccalaureate research education program

Duke recently received a $1.2 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to prepare post-baccalaureate students to apply for graduate programs or medical school and to diversify representation in biomedical sciences.

Called the Duke Preparing Research Scholars in Biomedical Sciences Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PRIME-PREP), the program is tailored for students interested in pursuing a PhD or MD/PhD in the biomedical sciences and belong to underrepresented groups in these sciences as defined by the National Institutes of Health.

The 12-month program will begin in July 2023 with seven scholars. It will provide opportunities for extensive research, lab experience, trips to academic conferences and mentorship from Duke faculty. 

“This program is going to be put in place to help identify talent and help to connect them to the resources and networks in order to be successful in pursuing those goals of obtaining a Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D.,” said Johnna Frierson, associate dean of equity, diversity, and inclusion for the basic sciences and assistant professor of the practice of medical education. 

For Frierson, becoming a co-principal investigator of this program was fueled by her own personal experience. As an undergraduate student who was uncertain of her next steps after getting a degree in biology, post-baccalaureate programs helped her identify her passions. 

“I was very fortunate enough to be connected with someone that told me about a post-baccalaureate program that I could still apply for in the spring of my senior year,” Frierson said. “As a result of participating in that year-long program that has the same elements that we will integrate into our Duke PRIME-PREP program, I was able to figure out what I wanted to do with my career.” 

Co-investigators Gerard Blobe, professor of pharmacology and cancer biology, and Micah Luftig, associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology, worked alongside Frierson to spearhead the program.  

“The bottom line is, we need to increase our pipeline and the diversity of individuals going into the sciences,” Blobe said. “Large swaths of the world population are not just given the opportunity. We’re all going to benefit when everyone has these opportunities.” 

The program has two application processes. One application process is for students who applied to a Duke Graduate School program and did not gain entry. These students were asked if they would be interested in having their graduate school application be considered for the PRIME-PREP program. The other process was a traditional application for students who did not fall under this category. 

Applications are open to all recent baccalaureate graduates from Duke and other universities, and applicants must have graduated within the last two years with an undergraduate degree, according to Blobe. The application deadline is Feb. 17. 

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