The University of New Mexico has received two grants in continued support of its PREP and IMSD Programs in the Department of Biology. The grants, totaling nearly $5 million over four years, were awarded through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The PREP or Postbaccalaureate Research and Education Program is under the direction of Biology Chair Richard Cripps, while the IMSD or the Initiative to Maximize Student Diversity is led by Regents' Professor and Principal Investigator Maggie Werner-Washburne.

PREP helps to support under-represented students gain research experience after their Bachelor's degrees, in order that they can prepare for successful entry into a graduate program. PREP is particularly focused upon those students that did not gain much research experience as undergraduates, and provides full-time experience in research laboratories in order to enhance research credentials.

"We are thrilled that the NIH has decided to fund for four more years our postbaccalaureate training program," said Cripps. "Over the last four years, 16 PREP Scholars have been accepted to prominent graduate programs around the country, and several of our alumni have now graduated with their Ph.D.s. Through training these individuals and supporting their scientific careers, we will contribute to the significant diversification of the faculty of this country."

The goals for the PREP program include identifying a cadre of qualified post-baccalaureate scholars, specifically minority BS/BA graduates, who chose to postpone graduate studies and to recruit them into the PREP program before they give up the idea of pursuing a graduate level career; providing these scholars with research and training opportunities that will give them the skills; generating the confidence and time needed to prepare for graduate studies; and facilitating application and acceptance into a biomedical related graduate program.

IMSD is a pre-Ph.D. diversity program that supports research experiences and personal development for undergraduate minority students to reach their goals. Students involved in the program are working toward degrees in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, computer sciences, computer engineering, chemical engineering and psychology. IMSD has produced significant results in every area of biomedical research.

IMSD has produced almost 30 Ph.D.s since 2004 and, typically, more than 80 percent of IMSD graduating seniors go on to graduate school each year. Currently, there are about 50 students working on their Ph.D.s from Harvard to the University of Washington and around the country that have matriculated from these UNM programs.

Because the mentoring program was working so well with juniors and seniors, and the graduation rate for Native American students was so low, IMSD now supports Gateway Mentoring Groups that provide the program to about 25 freshmen, sophomores, and transfer students from rural areas, pueblos and reservations who are interested in majors related to the STEM fields.

"Our program focuses on a set of principles, starting with "know your heart," Werner-Washburne said. "The goal of the program at every level is to train visionary, generous leaders and creative scientists."

Since the founding of the Minority Bio-Medical Research Support (MBRS) program at the UNM in 1972, and it's renaming as Initiatives to Maximize Student Diversity 12 years ago, more than 1000 graduate and undergraduate students at UNM have received support to work with faculty mentors, conduct scientific research and launch their careers.

Media Contact: Steve Carr (505) 277-1821; email: