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Source: Denis Medeiros, 785-532-0150, medeiros@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Jennifer Torline, 785-532-0847, jtorline@k-state.edu

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

BRIDGING THE FUTURE: K-STATE PROGRAM HELPS COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS BECOME SUCCESSFUL BIOMEDICAL RESEARCHERS

MANHATTAN -- Eight community college students are spending eight weeks this summer at Kansas State University to begin careers as biomedical researchers. Under the direction of K-State faculty researchers, the students are working on summer projects related to human nutrition, skin cancer and even plant genetics.

The students' research is part of the Kansas Bridges to the Future program, a partnership with the National Institutes of Health that helps underrepresented minority students pursue careers in biomedical sciences. These students are attending community college and plan to transfer to K-State after their sophomore year to study biomedical and bio-behavioral sciences or similar areas, including mathematics, psychology and sociology.

The summer before transferring to K-State, the students participate in an eight-week internship at K-State, where they are paired with a faculty member in the area of research that interests them.

"The summer session helps the students ease into life at K-State, which is a bigger university than what they may be used to," said Denis Medeiros, director of the program and head of the department of human nutrition. "It gives them a head start to help them succeed in biomedical science."

In the fall, the students will enter the Developing Scholars Program, which offers financial and academic support so they can perform research with faculty members. Many Kansas Bridges students often continue working with the same mentors as they did during the summer session.

It is this faculty-mentoring aspect that helps the students become successful researchers, Medeiros said, noting that the program has a completion rate of 94 percent.

The Kansas Bridges program partners with three community colleges in southwest Kansas: Dodge City Community College, Garden City Community College and Seward County Community College in Liberal. To be admitted to the program, students must take basic courses in science and mathematics at the community college level and have a 3.0 grade point average when transferring to K-State.

Students who are chosen for the program receive financial support for research at the community college level. While still attending community college they visit K-State several times, including a weeklong session the summer before their sophomore year to learn about life at K-State, research and responsible conduct for research.

Through the Kansas Bridges program, 30 students have earned science degrees and gone on to succeed in their fields. A former Kansas Bridges student graduated from medical school this year, and another is currently enrolled in medical school. Other students have completed doctoral programs at other universities.

"The population of universities is becoming more diverse, and it is important that our biomedical scientists reflect that diversity," Medeiros said. "There are a number of diseases and conditions that people of a minority background have a higher risk of getting. We hope by getting more minority students involved we can address those diseases and help everyone."

The eight students participating in this summer’s program include:

* Eduardo Acosta, Dodge City, performing human nutrition research with Weiqun "George" Wang, associate professor of human nutrition.

* Nallely Barron-Garcia, Dodge City, performing diagnostic medicine research with Thu Annelise Nguyen, assistant professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology.

* Cynthia Navarro, Dodge City, performing human nutrition research with Weiqun "George" Wang, associate professor of human nutrition.

* Irma Ailon, Garden City, performing human nutrition research with Brian Lindshield, assistant professor of human nutrition.

* Natira Mullet, Garden City, performing psychology research with Donald Saucier, associate professor of psychology.

* Eduardo Solorzano Torres, Garden City, performing sociology, anthropology and social work research with Elizabeth "Betsy" Cauble, head of the department of sociology, anthropology and social work.

* Victor Moreno, Liberal, performing plant pathology research with Frank White, professor of plant pathology.

* Jazmin Zeledon, Liberal, performing biology research with Sherry Fleming, associate professor of biology.