Delaware Public Media

DSU gets federal funds to boost graduate biological sciences program

May 16, 2017

Delaware State University is getting nearly $2 million from the National Institutes of Health to help bolster diversity in the biomedical fields.




Melissa Harrington, a DSU biology professor and the interim assistant vice president for research, said currently, the school only gives graduate students $1,000 each per semester, and that’s not enough to cover the costs of being in a graduate research program.


 “In order for these programs to be attractive for students, you have to support them,” Harrington said.


Without that support, DSU may only have a couple of graduate students studying in these fields each semester, Harrington said. For example, the school’s neuroscience program saw only two students get their PhDs this year - and there are now six left in the program.


Harrington said many students come in enthusiastic about getting an undergraduate degree in fields like neuroscience and biochemistry, but aren’t interested in pursuing their studies further after.


“We still need a way to get undergraduates from diverse backgrounds to pursue graduate studies, right? To go on and take that next step after their undergraduate and continue on particularly to the PhD,” Harrington said.


Harrington said she hopes this grant will help DSU convince some students who earn undergraduate degrees in neuroscience or biochemistry to continue on to graduate and PhD studies. 


The grant is called a RISE grant, which stands for Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement. It is designed to increase diversity among graduate students in biomedical sciences, fields that Harrington said lack diversity.


DSU plans to use the $1.8 million it receives over the next 5 years to offer students stipends and cover the cost of travel and supplies associated with their research.