First NCCU-Duke STEM Partnership Awards Granted

Three master's students from North Carolina Central University (NCCU), along with their NCCU advisers and Duke mentors, have been selected as the first recipients of $25,000 awards granted by the Duke-NCCU STEM Partnership.

The program aims to help increase the number of underrepresented minority students who pursue one of the "STEM disciplines" of science, technology, engineering or math. Each award will provide the students with a $15,000 stipend, $5,000 for tuition and $5,000 for the supplies needed to conduct research in a laboratory at Duke.

A primary goal of the program is to establish collaborations between faculty members at research-intensive Duke and NCCU, a historically black university.

"The science is important. But in this case, it's the relationship that's the driver," said Monty Reichert, a biomedical engineering professor at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering.

Reichert and Saundra Delauder, a chemistry professor and interim dean of the NCCU College of Science and Technology, are the partnership's program coordinators.

"This is a pilot, and hopefully it will become a model," Delauder said. "A lot of programs seek to recruit minority students, but that doesn't impact the infrastructure of the institutions where minority students already are. We think the relationship between faculty members at Duke and NCCU is one way to have a lasting effect on the pipeline."

For both Reichert and Delauder, minority graduate education has been a long-time interest. In 1996, Reichert spent a sabbatical at NCCU focused on the issue. He since has been active and successful in recruiting underrepresented minority students, particularly African-American students, to biomedical engineering at Duke. Last year, Delauder spent a sabbatical at Duke, working with Vice Provost for Academic Affairs John Simon on ways for NCCU to expand their building capacity and partnerships with other institutions. Reichert and Delauder's collaboration in launching the new partnership made possible with $100,000 in seed money from Duke's Office of the Provost--was a natural fit. At the end of the year, the participating NCCU faculty members are expected to submit a proposal for external funding, and the students are expected to pursue a doctoral degree.

"Perhaps the students will even want to consider coming to Duke as a graduate student," Reichert said.

This year's NCCU-Duke STEM Partnership teams are as follows:

NCCU Professor: Darlene Taylor, Duke Professor: Eric Toone,  NCCU Student: Melody Gibson, Project title: "Hyperbranched polyglycerols as a therapeutic platform for tamoxifen metabolites"

NCCU Professor: Daniel Williams,  Duke Professor: Philip Benfey,  NCCU Student: Hatajai Lassiter, Project title: "Transcriptome analysis of PssR regulated genes in Neisseria gonorrhoeae in response to innate host defense mechanisms"

NCCU Professor: Tonya Gerald, Duke Professor: Cynthia Kuhn, NCCU Student: Damien Barnett, Project title: "Determination of dopamine receptor sub-type expression modulation"