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Released July 25, 2003


HATTIESBURG - Two years ago, Patrick Stubbs was determined to go to medical school after graduating from Alcorn State with his degree in biology. But two summers spent conducting neuroscience research in the laboratories of The University of Southern Mississippi have changed the Bassfield native's mind.

"Now I'm convinced I want to go to grad school and get my Ph.D.," Stubbs said, "and I want to do it here at Southern Miss."

Drawing minority students to doctoral programs in science, math and engineering is the goal of the Alliance for Graduate Education in Mississippi's summer research program. At the state's four doctoral-degree granting universities, minority students spend a minimum of eight weeks on campus, where they pair with faculty mentors who work closely with the students, helping to demystify graduate-school culture.

"I thought grad school was something very hard, a place you'd be on your own," said Jelani Griffin, a junior chemistry major from Jackson State who is participating in the program at Southern Miss this summer. "But I've discovered that there are mentors who guide you through the research process. They really want to help."

In addition to allowing students to conduct graduate level research under the guidance of university faculty, the program - sponsored by the National Science Foundation - offers written and oral communication workshops. Students also learn valuable information about taking the GRE, and they undergo leadership and teambuilding training.

"The students work in the lab from 8-5 daily, but they also get other experience that grooms them for success in graduate school," said AGEM summer project director André Heath. "At the end of the session, they present their research to other students."

At Southern Miss, 16 minority students hailing mostly from historically black colleges - Grambling St., Alcorn St., Jackson St. and Mississippi Valley St. - are entering their last week of a program that started June 1. Three undergraduate students from Southern Miss are also participating.

Along with meals and lodging, the students get access to the Payne Center, the library and student parking. Each also gets a $3,000 stipend for the summer.

"This is an excellent program for students, and it's great for Southern Miss because of the increased profile it gives our programs," said Dr. Ronnie Evans, assistant director of the School of Human Performance and Recreation. This summer Evans has served as mentor to two female students as they have conducted research on congestive heart failure, osteoporosis and body composition and bone-mineral content.

Evans said the summer program is a perfect way to introduce students to graduate school. "I wish I would have had someone when I was a junior or senior who'd allow us to work in the labs all summer long."

Students also attended graduate education and research seminars this summer, with topics including: "Planning for Success in Graduate School," "Staying the Course and Beyond," and "Understanding the Politics and Protocol of Graduate School."

In its fourth year, the program has been a success at Southern Miss, Heath said. "This summer we've got three students who've already said they want to come to graduate school here, and last year we had one to pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry," he said.

Grambling senior KeArian Harris, a biology major from Birmingham, Ala., is not sure yet if she is going to pursue a graduate education or apply for medical school. She does think the program has opened avenues for her, however. "I've met some great professors and they've given me a lot of advice about my career opportunities," Harris said.



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August 18, 2003 3:03 PM