The Building Diversity in Biomedical Sciences program is one of our longest-standing diversity initiatives and is based at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. This summer program, launched in 1992, is designed to give undergraduate students hands-on experience in a research laboratory in preparation for advanced PhD or MD-PhD training.
BDBS accepts 18 to 22 students each year, with applications coming from across the country. The program provides stipends for the 10 week internship and lodging and pays for travel to and from Boston. Most of the students from outside the Boston area are housed in dormitories on campus.
At the start of the ten-week program, each student is assigned a research project that he or she will work on throughout the summer. Along the way, trainees have the guidance of a faculty mentor with an assigned graduate student or post-doctoral fellow providing further support. In addition, they work in small groups with another faculty member learning about ethics and how to give scientific presentations.
At the end of the program, all of the students prepare poster presentations of their work for a judged poster session. The winners are awarded a trip to a national meeting in the fall where they present their summer work.
Joan Mecsas, PhD, the former director of BDBS, has noted that while some of the students are relatively sophisticated in their lab experience, others have never been in lab before.
“Most are rising juniors or seniors but we have accepted some rising sophomores. BDBS has been around long enough that a lot of college advisors know about it. They know that our most important requirement is a strong work ethic.
“We want the students to be excited to be here at Tufts, to be here in Boston, to be here with a group of peers. But we expect them to work hard.”
Over the years that Tufts has offered the BDBS program, the NIH has broadened its view of diversity. That view now includes economically disadvantaged students and students who are the first in their families to go to college.
In assessing the BDBS impact, a recent survey of over 200 former participants reveals that about 75% have gone on to advanced biomedical training.