Anderson, a professor of biology at Howard University, plans to help undergraduates at the historically African-American institution develop skills that will give them a competitive edge for entrance into graduate and professional research careers in the biomedical sciences.
Utpal Banerjee, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
As a college student in India, Utpal Banerjee spent his summers working in several research laboratories, and those experiences were pivotal in his decision to become a scientist. Ever since he became a professor himself, Banerjee has been trying to provide the next generation of undergraduate students the same kind of hands-on, inquiry-based education that he received.
Sarah Elgin remembers being drawn to science as a child because it offered a concrete way to understand the world around her. “I liked poking and prodding things,” she says. “I wanted to figure how they worked.” It’s that joy in learning new things that has pushed Elgin to create a program that provides the same opportunity for her students at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
Borrowing from the slang of the Old West, inner-city youth sometimes refer to their groups of friends as ‘posses.’ In academic circles, New York's successful Posse Foundation has given the word a new meaning: a group of inner-city high school students trained as leaders and role models, then enrolled at top colleges and universities.
After speeding through college and graduate school, Jo Handelsman became a professor of plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when she was just 26. “I was so unprepared,” Handelsman recalls with a shudder. “We are extremely well prepared to do research. But that’s not all we do.”
Graham Hatfull knows from personal experience that straight-As are not the only path to a research career. “I was the kind of kid who was average academically, to put it nicely. I was blasé about it,” he says. But that changed when, as an undergraduate at the University of London, Hatfull became intrigued by an independent study project on the subcellular structure of plankton.
When Richard Losick was an undergraduate at Princeton University, he made what he calls an ‘obscure’ discovery that served as the foundation for his senior thesis. “It didn’t make it into a journal,” he recalls. “But no one knew it before me, and that really excited me about science.”
Growing up in the Philippines, Baldomero “Toto” Olivera recalls that cone snails were sold by the kilo in local seafood markets. As a child, however, Olivera was blissfully unaware of the impact that the predatory cone snail, Conus magus, would have on his life's work.
Graham Walker knew that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was different. But he was still surprised when he arrived for a job interview in Cambridge in 1975 to discover that MIT was so serious about teaching undergraduates. “Honestly, I was so excited at the end of that first day that I couldn’t sleep,” he remembers.