UWF awarded a nearly $1.7 million grant to train biomedical students

The University of West Florida has earned an approximately $1.7 million, five-year renewal grant from the National Institutes of Health to mentor and train the next generation of biomedical scientists. The undergraduate research training initiative for student enhancement, known as U-RISE, scholars program promotes broader participation in the biomedical research workforce by expanding the pool of well-trained scientists earning a Ph.D.

“We are excited to receive another five years of funding for a cumulative 15 years of NIH funding,” said Dr. Karen Molek, chair and professor in the Department of Chemistry. “This funding means our students are succeeding at the highest level nationally. U-RISE Scholars is replacing the 10-year NIH-funded MARC Scholars Program. The funding provides students with the financial support to quit working 30-40 hours per week and a ‘village’ of support including staff, peer mentors, UWF faculty and external faculty from graduate programs. Together our goal is to provide students with the resources, time, and opportunity to meet their academic potential and excel professionally and personally beyond UWF.”

The U-RISE program supports high-achieving junior and senior undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are pursuing a Ph.D. or MD-Ph.D. degree and a research career in a biomedical relevant area. The grant will provide students with opportunities to participate in biomedical research with UWF faculty mentors and external faculty mentors in Ph.D. or MD-Ph.D. programs, giving them a competitive edge for their applications to graduate school.

“This funding knocks down barriers for students and quite literally transforms their career outlook,” said Dr. Alexis Janosik, associate professor and graduate coordinator in UWF’s Department of Biology. “Many students wouldn’t otherwise have had these opportunities, and this funding makes them competitive for top-ranked graduate programs.”

Students in the U-RISE program receive tuition assistance, a $14,000 yearly stipend, research opportunities, individual mentoring and guidance about how to make themselves competitive for graduate school, help with building up their curriculum vitae with technical and professional skills and building their career network. Four students were selected for the inaugural class which begins in June. 

The U-RISE program replaces the Maximizing Access to Research Careers, or MARC, Scholars program at UWF. The MARC Scholars program, along with the U-RISE program, promotes retention.

Since 2014, 34 MARC Scholars have been accepted into the program at UWF. 93% of MARC Scholars graduated with a B.S. degree in biology, chemistry, mechanical engineering and/or physics. 80% of MARC Scholar graduates have matriculated to Ph.D. or MD-Ph.D. programs, while others have enrolled in other programs or have gone directly into the biomedical workforce. The last class of MARC scholars graduate in May 2025.

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