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Gilliam Program Expands to Provide Opportunities for More Students

Summary

HHMI has doubled the number of the Gilliam Fellowships available to Ph.D.-seeking students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has doubled the number of the Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study available to Ph.D.-seeking students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. “The talent pool is amazingly deep. We’ve seen spectacular students who go on to great schools and are very promising,” says Sean B. Carroll, HHMI’s vice president for science education. “We think it is really important to support these outstanding students.”

These are extremely capable scholars. We look forward to seeing them blossom into leaders.

Sean B. Carroll

The expansion of the program, which is aimed at increasing the diversity of college and university faculty, will allow up to 10 students each year to become Gilliam Fellows. This is an increase from the previous class of five. Each student selected receives $46,500 a year to support graduate study for up to five years.

This year’s nine awardees were chosen as Gilliam Fellows for their passion for research and their own commitment to increasing diversity in the sciences. The students come from across the country and from an array of backgrounds, but all have worked in the labs of HHMI scientists as undergraduates and are committed to getting a doctoral degree in science. “Our goal is to train tomorrow’s leaders in science and education,” says William Galey, director of HHMI’s graduate and medical education program.

The Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study were created in 2004 in honor of the late James H. Gilliam Jr., a charter HHMI trustee who spent his life nurturing excellence and diversity in science and education. So far, 44 students have been awarded Gilliam Fellowships.

Gilliam fellows are chosen from among students who have participated in HHMI’s Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP), which aims to stimulate the scientific curiosity and imagination of students from minority or other groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

Of the nearly 250 EXROP alumni who have completed the baccalaureate degree, 96% are still studying or working in the sciences—teaching, working in a research lab, or pursuing an advanced degree. Last year, EXROP was expanded to allow more students to participate.

Alumni of EXROP are eligible to apply for Gilliam fellowships. The Gilliam program’s expansion “speaks to the sustained ability of EXROP to identify individuals who are in some way at a disadvantage to enter the academic science world,” Carroll says.

Among the new Gilliam fellows, five have graduated from college or will graduate this year and are currently applying to graduate school. The remaining four awardees are in their first year of Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. programs. “This program is providing opportunities to an outstanding group of highly talented individuals who have a demonstrated interest in and aptitude for research,” Galey says.

The nine new Gilliam fellows, chosen from a larger pool of applicants, came to science from different paths, and their scientific interests are just as diverse. For example,

A childhood refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Espoir Kyubwa, a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, is seeking an M.D./Ph.D. so he can help improve conditions in his native country.

Gloria Tavera, a graduate of the University of Florida, wrote an editorial on neglected diseases published in a major medical journal and studied dengue fever in Mexico through a Fulbright scholarship. She is now studying infectious diseases, on the road to a Ph.D.

Part of what makes EXROP and the Gilliam program unique is the opportunity for students from traditionally underrepresented groups to work in the laboratories of HHMI investigators and to meet other students who are following the same scientific path. The aim is to create a support network of scientists and scientists-in-training that can help awardees become successful in research and academia. “These are extremely capable scholars,” Carroll says. “We look forward to seeing them blossom into leaders.”

The winners of the 2011 Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study:

  • Nicolas Altemose- Duke University

  • Andria Ashmore- University of California, Los Angeles*

  • Nadia Herrera- University of Texas at El Paso

  • Jessica Cabral Jimenez- University of California, Los Angeles

  • Sandra Jones- Spelman College

  • Benyam Kinde- Harvard Medical School*

  • Espoir Kyubwa- University of California, San Diego*

  • Chinweike Okegbe- Columbia University*

  • Gloria Tavera- University of Florida

    *Graduate school

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute plays a powerful role in advancing scientific research and education in the United States. Its scientists, located across the country and around the world, have made important discoveries that advance both human health and our fundamental understanding of biology. The Institute also aims to transform science education into a creative, interdisciplinary endeavor that reflects the excitement of real research. For more information, visit www.hhmi.org.

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