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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As the spring semester nears a close at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), its Bridges to the Baccalaureate in the Biomedical Sciences Program is preparing to open its doors to 20 students from Tallahassee Community College (TCC) who are poised to become the next generation of leaders in biomedical sciences.
In its second year, the Bridges program is housed in the FAMU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (COPPS). It is a 10-week summer research experience partnership between FAMU and TCC that provides students with the academic skills, research training, and support network necessary for successful careers in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), namely the biomedical sciences.
The goal of the program is to cultivate and increase the number of qualified African American, Hispanic, and other underrepresented minority students from TCC who seek to obtain a four-year degree through the biomedical sciences programs offered at FAMU, including biology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry, environmental health sciences, food and animal sciences, pharmaceutical sciences, and biochemical engineering.
The FAMU-TCC Bridges Program also includes a mentorship component that matches TCC students with FAMU research faculty from the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, College of Science and Technology, the School of the Environment, and COPPS .
The Bridges program is already making a national impact. David Perez, a student from the 2014 cohort, and sophomore environmental engineering major at TCC, recently received the top Microbiology Research Award for his poster presentation at the Annual Biomedical Conference for Minority Students in San Antonio, Texas. Perez was among 1,700 student participants who competed nationally in 12 different disciplines including molecular sciences, cell biology, and microbiology, as well as engineering and chemistry.
His award-winning research project titled, “Coupling Phycoremediation of Military Wastewater Pollutants and Nutrients for the Generation of Environmentally Sustainable Biobased Products” was supported by his Bridges mentor Ashvini Chauhan, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University’s Environmental Biotechnology Lab.
"As a participant in the TCC-FAMU Bridges program at FAMU, I was hoping to expand my perspective on research and to meet people who would provide additional direction for my future. Both of these goals were realized,” Perez said. "Being at FAMU for the Bridges program let me experience a world-class system that convinced me to pursue a degree there. I found its research mission very compelling.”
The program is not only inspiring its students, but also its professors, who say that being involved in the program is highly rewarding.
“I am very appreciative of the TCC-FAMU Bridges program because I can witness students like David Perez being motivated by what the FAMU research community has to offer. I felt incredibly honored to learn that as a result of our work, David was well equipped to compete at such a prestigious research conference. He is a testament to the value of our program,” said Chauhan.
According to Chauhan, the program also provides participants with the opportunity to be mentored by current FAMU students. Chauhan’s graduate assistant, Lowell Collins, an environment science major, worked closely with Perez to ensure he benefited from the research experience and scientific training provided by the program.
The Bridges program is funded by a 5-year, $2.1 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, an arm of the National Institute of Health. Carl B. Goodman, Ph.D., professor and assistant dean for Research and Graduate Studies, and Calandra Stringer, Ph.D., dean of curriculum and instruction at TCC, both serve as co-principal investigators for the Bridges program.
“The fundamental purpose of the FAMU-TCC Bridges Program is to attract and inspire young talented STEM students from TCC, like David, to obtain their undergraduate degrees in one of the many outstanding biomedical science programs at FAMU,” Goodman said.
He added, “David’s research experience and the additional scientific training that he has been able to master from the FAMU School of the Environment will provide him with the opportunity to become highly competitive as a candidate to not only earn a Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences, but also sets him on the road for an outstanding career in this field of study.”
This year’s program starts on May 18.