Four students make up the first cohort of undergraduates participating in the Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) Nevada program. The program, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is designed to help develop a diverse pool of undergraduates who complete their baccalaureate degree, and transition into and complete research-focused higher degree programs (Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D.) in biomedical sciences. The long-term goal is to develop a diverse pool of well-trained scientists.
The first cohort consists of students Lauren Carriere, Jesus Diaz Sanchez, Jonathan Taasan and Kimberly Giannantonio. MARC Nevada student participants will receive an annual stipend of $13,920 for their junior and senior years of college, partial financial coverage of tuition, year-round research opportunities and mentoring among other benefits.
Faculty in College of Science and the Institute for Neuroscience collaborated on the proposal for the MARC grant, including Professor and Director of the Institute James Kenyon and Associate Professor and Associate Dean in the College of Science Melanie Duckworth. The grant is an institutional training grant, which frequently get renewed, meaning the University will likely be able to support more cohorts beyond the first five this year’s grant supports. The University hasn’t had an institutional training grant in over a decade, Kenyon said.
“If the program is able to recruit good trainees and fill all the slots, and the trainees are successful, there’s a greater chance to renew it and renew it and renew it,” Kenyon said. The MARC principal investigators (PIs) also hope to increase the number of trainees in subsequent grants.
The program has four PIs: Duckworth, Professor of Biology Thomas Kidd, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Mary Burtnick and Associate Professor of Chemistry Wes Chalifoux.
The PIs are excited about the opportunity to support students. Burtnick pointed out that grant will give students a chance to really dive into research before they apply to graduate schools. The current cohort has already begun their summer research projects.
“For me, it’s good to have a program that’s really designated for students of underrepresented groups and give them opportunities like this to excel,” Chalifoux said. The PIs also pointed out that Kenyon and the Institute for Neuroscience did a huge amount of work to get the proposal completed and ensuring its success.
Students interested in the program can apply at the end of their sophomore year of college. The College of Science will feature each student in this cohort in a profile on Nevada Today.