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Graduate School Welcomes 14th Annual Summer Research Opportunities Program Students

Tuesday, June 2 marked the kick-off of the 2010 ten-week SROP program, which each year brings to Duke a select group of undergraduate students who are seriously considering Ph.D. study in the sciences. This intensive 10-week summer research program emphasizes direct laboratory experience, and is designed to give undergraduate students from underrepresented groups hands-on practice in graduate-level biomedical research. This year’s participants will spend a majority of their time learning research techniques in the laboratory, attending lab meetings, interacting with members of other labs, and solving real research problems under the guidance of faculty mentors. In addition to laboratory research, students participate in a weekly research seminar and social hour, a workshop about how to successfully apply to graduate school, and a closing symposium in which they present their research results in a poster session.

Begun in 1996, this summer research program grew out of discussions between Duke University faculty and that of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) during the Duke-sponsored Building Bridges Program (1993-1997). HBCU faculty considered summer research programs to be of great importance to their students, particularly if the hope was to interest the students in a Ph.D. pathway and to increase the presence of underrepresented groups in graduate programs and in careers in science. Based in part on this, a team of Duke faculty members created the SROP in 1996 as a grass-roots effort initially, with essentially all of the planning and implementation carried out by them; a group which included Dr. Kenneth Kreuzer, Professor of Biochemistry, and Dr. Douglas Marchuk, Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and Director of the Duke University Program in Genetics and Genomics. At the beginning, SROP was supported through modest grants from the Duke University Graduate School, the Medical Center, Glaxo-Wellcome Company, Wyeth-Ayerst Company, and Abbot Laboratories. From 2000 to 2007, the program was supported with grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is now sustained by University support. Since 1996, about 25 percent of the SROP participants have earned a Ph.D. or a M.D./Ph.D.

This year’s group draws students from Oakwood University, St. Mary’s University, Bethune Cookman University, the University of Arizona, and the University of Missouri-Columbia, and includes students from the United States, Kenya, and the Bahamas. In addition to their research commitments, program students will be introduced to the variety of support services and Graduate School offerings at Duke and will participate in social activities within the Duke-Durham community.

Dr. Meta J. Kuehn, Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Dr. Soman Abraham, Professor of Pathology, serve as faculty directors of the Summer Research Opportunities Program. Dean J. Alan Kendrick is the administrative director of the program.