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NIH Grant Charts Path to UC Merced Ph.D. for Fresno State Students

July 16, 2015
A $1.4 million ‘Bridges to the Doctorate’ grant will support and train 36 students over five years as they earn their master’s at Fresno State and prepare for doctoral studies at UC Merced

A new grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will create a pipeline to doctoral degrees in biomedical and behavioral sciences at the University of California, Merced, for underrepresented minority students from California State University, Fresno.  

UC Merced Professor Andy LiWang and Fresno State Professor Krish Krishnan were recently awarded a nearly $1.4 million Bridges to the Doctorate grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). The program will recruit four to eight Fresno State students each year who demonstrate the commitment and potential to complete a Ph.D. program at UC Merced. The grant, which is the first of its kind at UC Merced, will support and train 36 students over a total of five years. 

The NIH Bridges grant adds to the growing list of competitive research and training grants UC Merced faculty members have received in recent years,” Vice Provost and Graduate Dean Marjorie Zatz said. “This demonstrates the caliber of our faculty in the eyes of the research community, as well as our strong commitment to expanding the pool of STEM scholars through explicit outreach to highly qualified members of underrepresented groups.”

Beginning this fall, students selected for the Bridges program will complete their master’s degree training with Krishnan and affiliated faculty members at Fresno State, including Professors Jason Bush, Alam Hasson, Lorin Lachs, Alejandro Calderon-Urrea and Joy Goto.

There, the students will receive financial support and academic guidance as they develop their scientific and research skills while furthering their training with summer internships at UC Merced. After completing their master’s degree, Bridges scholars will transition to more intensive research and study in a Ph.D. program at UC Merced. 

This is a great opportunity for students from the Fresno/Merced area to pursue both master’s and Ph.D. programs in biomedical or behavioral sciences right here in the Central Valley,” Krishnan said. “The Bridges program will strengthen the research collaborations and catalyze future interactions between students and faculty at Fresno State and UC Merced.”

The Bridges grant comes on the heels of the announcement of a $5 million grant from NASA to UC Merced to establish the new Merced Nanomaterials Center for Energy and Sensing, which also seeks to make an impact on underrepresented students. “This has been a record-breaking year in terms of new research awards, with UC Merced passing the $20 million mark for the first time,” said Juan Meza, dean of the School of Natural Sciences. 

LiWang, a faculty member with the School of Natural Sciences and the Health Sciences Research Institute, supports undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral researchers in his lab — leading to their publication in prestigious journals such as Science. He is also involved with a number of programs that seek to actively recruit students at all levels to scientific research. 

Since 2009, LiWang has participated in the American Chemical Society’s Summer Experience for the Economically Disadvantaged (SEED) Project, a nationwide program to get high school students from poor families into university labs for hands-on research experience. He also participates in the Merced County Office of Education’s annual Dinner with a Scientist program, which seeks to excite middle school students about scientific research. 

I feel strongly about UC Merced’s mission to have a transformative effect on the San Joaquin Valley,” LiWang said. “In addition to helping students secure a well-paying job and career, advanced degrees in science boost our nation’s lead in creativity and innovation, producing knowledge and products that are in global demand.”