UNCF Pres. Lomax Challenges-African American Scientists And Science Students To Help Prepare The Next Generation
- Post 14 August 2011
- By Special to the Daily World
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FAIRFAX, Va.-- Michael Lomax, president and CEO of UNCF (United Negro College Fund), the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization, challenged an audience of African-American scientists and science students to make sure that as they build their careers, they also reach out to help younger students get the pre-college education they need to study science in college. Lomax spoke at the annual 2011 UNCF/Merck Fellows Day, celebrating the 2011 class of 37 African Americans receiving scholarships and fellowships under the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative, a partnership of UNCF and Merck, a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well.
Now in its 16th year, UMSI is a 20-year partnership that has supported over 550 scholarships and fellowships to promising undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral science students pursing careers in biomedical research. The UNCF/Merck scholarships and fellowships provide the future scientists with financial support, hands-on training, close mentoring and networking relationships, and institutional support. Recipients are chosen through a competitive application process that selects candidates based on their academic achievements and potential in the fields of biomedical research and engineering.
"Merck's investment in these promising students and scholars is a major commitment to developing the next generation of researchers, professors, and teachers in biological science and engineering and an investment in longer and better lives for millions of people not only in America but around the world," said Lomax. "Merck Fellows and alumni can invest, too, by getting involved to help educate the middle- and high-schoolers of today prepare to become the next generation of African American science majors and graduate students."
American undergraduate students select natural science and engineering (NS&E) disciplines as their primary field of study at considerably lower rates than their counterparts in other countries, according to the National Science Board's 2010 report, "Preparing the Next Generation of STEM innovators: Identifying and Developing Our Nation's Human Capital." According to the most recent data, only 16 percent of U.S. undergraduates choose an NS&E major, compared to 25 percent of undergraduates in the
European Union, 47 percent in China, and 38 percent in South Korea. The same trend is reflected among students studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as graduate and post-doctoral students. 33 percent of all U.S. STEM doctoral students in U.S. universities, and 57 percent of U.S. postdoctoral STEM fellows are foreign students on temporary visas. The UNCF/Merck Science Initiative thus represents a substantial continuing increase in the number of African Americans in the STEM fields.
Merck and UNCF began UMSI in 1995 with a 10-year, $20 million grant from the Merck Company Foundation and Merck Research Laboratories. The project was extended in 2006 with an additional $13 million grant and again earlier this year for $10.6 million over five years.
"Merck's global philosophy is to hire the best and most qualified talent available to help us develop and deliver novel medicines and vaccines that address unmet medical needs," said Peter S. Kim, president, Merck Research Laboratories. "We recognize that to achieve breakthrough science and innovation, we need diversity of thought and an inclusive culture so that everyone can contribute and grow to their full potential. Our longstanding partnership with the UNCF is an important element to our success."
The 2011 UNCF/Merck Fellows receive awards ranging from $25,000 for undergraduate scholarship recipients to $92,000 for recipients of postdoctoral fellowships. In addition, the program's alumni have organized the Association of UNCF/Merck Fellows to facilitate continued professional growth. This network allows UNCF/Merck Fellows to collaborate in academia, government and the private sector to leverage their wealth of scientific, technical and biomedical knowledge and experience.
"The UNCF/Merck Science Initiative is more than an award that honors outstanding African American scientists," said Andra S. Stevenson, Ph.D., a Merck scientist and former UNCF/Merck Postdoctoral Fellow, "It recognizes our commitment as scientists to better the lives of those around us. Being a UNCF/Merck Fellow has opened doors to numerous invaluable opportunities including the position I hold now as a senior biologist at Merck. Serving in this capacity enables me to work as a member of large program teams that are working toward bringing life-changing treatments and cures to the world and its patients."
Support from the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative scholarships targets students entering their final undergraduate year, graduate students in their final two-to-three years of dissertation research, and postdoctoral Fellows continuing their research training. African American students in the life, physical and engineering sciences at American four-year colleges and universities are eligible to apply for the scholarship
To learn more about the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative, visit http://umsi.uncf.org/.