UCR has awarded six first-year graduate students an annual stipend of $30,000 for two years to increase underrepresented minority students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at the doctoral level. The stipend covers the students’ living expenses. Each student’s full graduate tuition and fees are covered by an additional $10,500 per year.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the awards are given out by the California Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Bridge to the Doctorate (CAMP-BD) graduate student activity, which is designed to attract underrepresented minority students in STEM disciplines.

The CAMP-BD activity provides professional development to students to encourage their participation at state and local professional conferences, and assists them in applying to postdoctoral programs.

“The goal of the CAMP-BD awards is to increase the number of ethnically underrepresented students completing STEM doctoral degrees by offering recipients the opportunity to enroll in a graduate degree program without the financial burden typically associated with graduate education,” said Rich Cardullo, the lead investigator at UCR of the NSF grant and a UCR professor of biology. The principal investigator is UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake.

Cardullo explained that first-generation students from underrepresented minorities are often subject to pressure to go to law school, medical school and other professional schools.

“But we also have a strong need for next-generation scientists, engineers and educators with Ph.D.s who are underrepresented minorities,” he said. “The CAMP-BD awards aim at closing the gap. We are currently looking at admitting another six fellows who will join UCR in January.”

The six students selected for the awards are Mackenzie Alvarez, chemistry; Jesse Benavides, mathematics; Carla De Los Santos, bioengineering; Eddie Laguna, chemistry; Abdullah Madany, biomedical sciences; and Phillip Soto, microbiology.

“Because of these fellowships, these students will be fully engaged in research from the outset,” Cardullo said. “They are also expected to complete their graduate coursework and make rapid progress toward advancing to candidacy for the Ph.D.”