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Release: July 6, 1999

UI freshmen begin new, five-week summer research program

IOWA CITY -- This week 13 University of Iowa freshmen will begin the first of a five-week summer research program called The Iowa Biosciences Advantage, a program designed to retain and motivate high-ability ethnic minorities to pursue careers in biomedical sciences.

Through July 30 IBA students will take a specially designed summer science course and will be paired with UI faculty mentors from various science-related departments in efforts to provide them with research opportunities and to familiarize them with science concepts and methods.

The IBA, which is funded by the National Institute of General Medical Science, is one of 28 such programs created since1997 under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health, says A. Denita Gadson, program manager.

"So many students start college as science majors, however, the attrition rate is high, and in designing the IBA, we established three goals," Gadson says.

"The first goal is to retain minority students in undergraduate sciences, facilitate the students’ entry into graduate and professional biomedical science programs, and our overall goal is to prepare them for careers in the biomedical sciences," Gadson says.

A UI report on the number of degrees conferred to minority students from 1993-97 shows few pursue a master’s or higher degree, although a double-digit number earn a bachelor’s degree in the biosciences, such as 1997 when 26 minority freshmen opted for a science major.

From 1993 to 1997, 119 undergraduate minority freshmen declared science-related majors, and while 106 earned a bachelor’s degree in the sciences, only 14 master’s or higher degrees were awarded. The report says if the UI were to adopt a new array of interventions, the UI could improve its minority retention records. The IBA is one such intervention.

Participation in the IBA is voluntary, and the students receive a summer stipend from the program; however, the students do not receive financial support during the academic year, although many may have earned scholarships from other sources to help pay their college-related expenses. Five students from Iowa, six from Illinois, one from South Dakota, and one from Puerto Rico make up the inaugural class.

"Students participate in the program based on their desire to succeed. At the IBA we use work with various campus academic units such as Special Support Services and the Academic Advising Center" to help the students have successful undergraduate careers, Gadson says.