By Sage Wesenberg, Biochemistry and Journalism 2019
Several University of Connecticut students visited Northeastern last week as part of their preparation to apply to PhD programs. The group of McNair Scholars had the opportunity to meet with College of Science and Bouvé College of Health Sciences faculty to talk about their focus and research topics.
The McNair Scholars Program is a national initiative funded by the US Department of Education’s TRIO program, with the goal of helping to prepare motivated undergraduate students for doctoral programs. UConn focuses its efforts in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The program is catered towards first-generation, low-income college students, and students from underrepresented populations. The rigorous program throughout students’ undergraduate career is coupled with a nine-week summer research program for rising seniors interested in participating in a robust research project. During this, students have the opportunity to work on independent projects with faculty and graduate student mentors, take a GRE preparatory class, and spend time in professional development workshops for graduate school applications. Additionally, the students visit graduate programs at other universities to network with professors and discuss their research.
During their visit to Northeastern six McNair Scholars spent the morning touring campus and meeting individually with professors and Directors of Admissions. Afterwards, lunch was shared with College of Science Dean Ken Henderson and McNair Scholar Derion Reid, a third year PhD student at Northeastern. With interests in everything from athlete susceptibility to exertional heat stroke to termites’ microbial interactions for the development of biofuels, each Scholar showed passion for their career aspirations. According to the UConn McNair Scholars Program Coordinator, many of the Scholars are interested in considering graduate programs at Northeastern for its resources, desirable location, and co-op opportunities.
“The McNair program is part of a long lineage of new success in front of you, so it’s a privilege for us to be a part of this,” said Henderson, introducing himself.
Henderson engaged with students as they inquired about Northeastern, its PhD programs, and his career path. When asked what distinguishes Northeastern’s graduate programs, Henderson brought context to the experiential learning that Northeastern embodies.
“Our graduate and undergraduate curricular are honed by this particular feature between what industries are doing and what we’re teaching in the classroom,” he said. “It gets you that depth and insight, puts you ahead of the curve and makes you more competitive against your peers. It also helps you think about what you really want to do.”
Students also gained insight into PhD life. A Chemical Biology PhD student, Reid works in Dr. Carla Mattos’ lab studying protein structures involved in cancer signaling. He candidly shared the demanding responsibilities of being a PhD candidate, but credited his preparedness to the McNair Scholar Program at Winthrop University.
“It was a really great opportunity. I wasn’t familiar with what I could do with a PhD, so McNair definitely opened my eyes to a lot of different opportunities,” Reid said.
The College of Science and Henderson hope to continue to foster relationships with McNair Scholars from around the country, potentially gaining McNair alumni as incoming PhD students. Northeastern is hopeful that its recent application to be a McNair Scholars Program host university to serve students is successful, which would add to the six in New England.