UTRGV, TSC, STC partner to bridge students into biomedical research careers

UTRGV students in the BMED program work in the lab. (UTRGV Archival Photo by Paul Chouy)

By Letty Fernandez, UTRGV Staff

UTRGV, South Texas College and Texas Southmost College have been awarded a more than $2 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a research training program in biomedical sciences.

Called the Rio Grande Valley Bridge to the Baccalaureate in Biomedical Sciences – B2BMED, for short – the program will follow and support aspiring community college students from STC and TSC as they transition into the UTRGV Biomedical Sciences (BMED) program.

“Working with our STC and TSC partners, we will be able to provide community college students support as they matriculate from their associate degree, and transfer to UTRGV to earn their bachelor’s degree and continue on to graduate school to enter the biomedical science research workforce,” said Dr. Sue Anne Chew, UTRGV assistant professor of Health and Biomedical Sciences.

Chew and Dr. Saraswathy Nair, associate professor and chair of the UTRGV Biomedical Science Department, wrote the grant application with Dr. Shima Chaudhary of STC and Ruben Reyes of TSC.

STUDENTS LOOK TO THE FUTURE

Natasha Rodriguez, a second-year, non-traditional student at STC whose goal is to become a naturopathic doctor and do research, said being accepted into the program means she still has a shot at her dreams.

“Having one child about to start college full time and the other not far behind, I have been very worried about being able to continue on my educational path financially,” she said, “so this program has been a tremendous blessing to me and my family.”

The $2,087,976 grant will support eight students the first year, and 16 students from STC and TSC each year of the five-year grant. They will be provided stipends, tuition and fee support, advising and mentoring, travel support to attend professional and summer STEM workshops, summer internships and conferences, and will be given research experiences to promote their academic success.

“A new chapter starts with this grant, as we will be able to motivate many more students in the future to go into promising biomedical careers,” said Chaudhary, biology instructor at STC. “Our students will be able to do research under the mentorship of scientists at UTRGV and provide them additional support for a smooth transition to the UTRGV biomedical science program.”

Daniella Aileen Rodriguez, who is working on an Associate of Science degree at TSC, plans to transfer to UTRGV and hopes to become a physical therapist.

“This is an amazing opportunity that will provide me with the knowledge and skills needed to further my education. I am excited and honored to be working with these scientists to gain first-hand experience and learn so much,” she said.

As the nation deals with the COVID 19 pandemic, the grant is especially timely because it addresses the critical need for a diverse biomedical science research workforce.

“Engagement in research early on in their academic careers has been recognized as an important contributor to the success and aspirations of STEM students,” said Dr. Deborah Overath, TSC biology instructor and chair of the mathematics and science division. “We are proud to be able to offer this opportunity to our Associate of Science students.”

For information about the program, visit the website at https://www.utrgv.edu/hbs/student-engagement/b2bmed/index.htm.