Clemson University Program Aims to Boost Black Students in Biomedical Engineering

Clemson University in South Carolina is launching the Call Me Doctor Esteemed Scholars Program for undergraduates who are from groups that are underrepresented in STEM and have an interest in conducting biomedically-related research and pursuing a Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D after completing their undergraduate degree.

The idea is to help underrepresented students overcome the barriers that often keep them from entering graduate programs. Just 7.9 percent of students enrolled in bioengineering or biomedical engineering nationwide were from groups underrepresented in the discipline, according to the National Science Foundation’s 2019 Survey of Earned Doctorates.

The new program will provide mentors and research opportunities for undergraduates. It is designed to help students build confidence, create a STEM identity, and establish a network of peers, faculty, and administrators to support them on their academic journey. The program is open to students in bioengineering and bioengineering-related disciplines, including: biological sciences; genetics and biochemistry; electrical engineering; chemical engineering; and materials science and engineering. There will be room for five incoming first-year students per year, and the first cohort starts this fall.

The program’s organizers are Angela Alexander-Bryant and Jordon Gilmore, both assistant professors of bioengineering at Clemson. “Our goal is to increase the number of students, particularly from underrepresented groups, who are participating in research early in their college years and then moving on to a Ph.D.,” Dr. Alexander-Bryant said. “We can also use this as a recruiting mechanism that helps bring in high-achieving students who might have gone elsewhere for college.”

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