UC Irvine’s Minority Science Program was recently recognized by the White House as the 2005 winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.
The award is given to programs that demonstrate an objective to build minority participation in the field of biological sciences. Along with the award, a $10,000 grant to further mentoring programs was given. UCI was the only school out of 11 others that was honored with this award.
MSP, funded by the National Institutes of Health, increases the number of underrepresented minorities in the fields of biological sciences. Students involved in the program are able to take part in research training, faculty guidance and exposure to biomedical careers.
Many undergraduate and graduate students involved in MSP have received national awards. In 2002, eight undergraduates, most of whom were of Latino descent, received top awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The outreach program targets K-12 through graduate students in order to expose them to new areas of engineering, math and science.
Activities organized by the outreach program under MSP include the Science Fair Initiative, Teacher Professional Development, Bridges of Baccalaureate, Minority Biological Research Support and the Minority International Training.
The Science Fair Initiative has helped thousands of K-12 students with their science fairs. The Teacher Professional Development has provided summer courses for math and science teachers who teach in districts with a greater number of minorities.
Community college students who have planned to transfer to a four-year university have looked toward the Bridges of Baccalaureate program. The Minority Biological Research Support has mentored undergraduate and graduate students who pursue doctoral degrees and biomedical careers.
Although the program has garnered national recognition, very few students in the biological sciences have heard about it.
‘It sounds like a great program but I have honestly never heard about it before,’ said Thu Nguyen, a second-year biological sciences major. ‘I think the program should be publicized more because even I would be interested in it. It’s already difficult to get into research and to work with faculty. This program would appeal to many people if it were more widely known.’
However, other students feel that such a program should be available to all people and not based on ethnicity or background.
‘I like the idea of the outreach program but I don’t like how it is specifically for minorities,’ said Ai Chau Hoang, a third-year biological sciences major. ‘It’s not that I’m against minorities, but I feel that the program should be open for everyone based on qualifications.’