DENTON (UNT), Texas — A new grant that will increase student participation and diversity in Ph.D. science and engineering programs focusing on research relevant to human health is being established at the University of North Texas starting in Fall 2021.
The Graduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (G-RISE) grant from the National Institutes of Health will develop a diverse pool of Ph.D. scientists for careers in the biomedical research fields. The program will provide financial and mentoring support and other professional development resources for students at UNT from historically minoritized groups in the biomedical research sciences. The $2 million grant will fund student stipends, travel support and partial tuition for twenty students over five years.
The program aims to increase diversity in Ph.D. science and engineering programs, not just by providing financial support, but also by expanding mentorship with faculty and staff and providing relevant career development. A key component of G-RISE is increasing support for Ph.D. students to develop as biomedical researchers. The grant will support guest lecturers for trainees, mentors and others. Professional development focused on graduate student mentorship and training also will be provided for faculty mentors across the scientific disciplines.
“NIH has a long history of supporting Ph.D. students’ training in the country,” UNT College of Science Dean Pamela Padilla said. “This program will make it less taxing on the student so that they can focus on their research. It also helps us put a lens on best practices for mentorship and training Ph.D. science students.”
Students are required to be a citizen or a noncitizen national of the United States and starting a Ph.D. that supports entry into a career in a field that falls under the umbrella of the NIH mission. Participants will be selected for the program through an application process that uses contemporary best practices in recruiting underrepresented doctoral students.
The program will be led by Padilla, Warren Burggren, University Distinguished Research Professor of biological sciences, Lee Hughes, associate professor of biological sciences, G. Andrés Cisneros, professor of chemistry, and Vijay Vaidyanathan, chair of biomedical engineering.
The faculty members said that they are expecting to make the program sustainable by providing mentoring opportunities for Ph.D. students beyond the grant.
“NIH has provided us with an opportunity to give these students a leg up, helping them to get started with fewer financial barriers and a stronger support network,” Burggren said. “It will be exciting to recruit and train them, and just generally be part of this NIH-UNT partnership that will increase the diversity of biomedical researchers.”