A lucky group of students flew out to Berlin, Germany, this weekend. Howard University’s Summer Bridge trip is an important part of the Bison STEM Scholars Program,  a competitive academic track for talented students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“For most of our scholars, the trip to Berlin, Germany will mark the first time that they have traveled out of the country,” explains Bison STEM Scholars Program (BSSP) Director Ronald H. Smith. “The sooner that our scholars learn how to understand, tolerate and bridge differences, the better prepared they will be to be STEM leaders.”

During the two-week trip, students will attend classes in the mornings before going on educational excursions in the afternoons. Students will also use the time to develop a group research project focused on a global health challenge and present their findings while in Berlin.

“My interest in dermatology and cancer originated from my experience as a child struggling with severe eczema. I hope through my future developments in cancer research, society will begin to focus attention and resources on African Americans in STEM,” said Lethan Hampton, a freshman biology major.

Lindsey Whitmore, a freshman chemistry major, wants to find a cure for pancreatic cancer and other diseases that disproportionately affect African-Americans and individuals of African descent.

The Bison STEM Scholars Program (BSSP) provides undergraduate scholarships to students who have committed to pursuing graduate and professional studies in STEM-related disciplines. Hampton and Whitmore are part of the third group of BSSP students. With the addition of Cohort 3, the program now enrolls eighty-seven of Howard University’s most talented students. All have committed to pursuing a Ph.D., or an MD–PhD.,  a dual doctoral degree for physician-scientists.

“The Bison STEM Scholars Program is designed for focused students who from day one have committed to going the distance to pursue their terminal degrees. This program will help them achieve those goals and stay on target by grouping them alongside like-minded individuals,” says Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick.

Three years ago, Dr. Frederick and Provost and Chief Academic Officer Anthony K. Wutoh initiated the development of BSSP to address the lack of minorities earning terminal STEM degrees and eventually becoming researchers and higher education faculty.

In 1988, the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) began providing financial assistance, mentoring, advice, and research experience for African American male undergraduate students committed to obtaining Ph.D.s in math, science, and engineering.

Since then, the Scholars Program has been at the forefront of efforts to increase diversity among future leaders in science, engineering, and related fields. UMBC Meyerhoff is now more than 1400 strong with over 1100 alumni across the nation, which includes over 300 students enrolled in graduate and professional programs.

“The Bison Stem Scholars Program offers countless opportunities for African Americans interested in an MD-PhD,  or Ph.D., but it is imperative that applicants are truly invested in research before committing,” Hampton said. “This means students need to believe in themselves. I would also advise high schoolers to challenge themselves in the academic field and push past their limit.”

Whitmore has the same advice for anyone interested in applying to the program.

“Your academic history is not the only aspect of your application that matters. The program wants people who are not only passionate about STEM and research, but are also passionate about activities outside of the realm of academia,”  Whitmore said.

Travel to Berlin, Germany is part of a partnership with the Council on International Educational Exchange, a nonprofit study abroad and intercultural exchange organization. The scholars are expected to return Saturday, August 10, just in time for Howard University’s Freshman Move-In day.

Click here to find out more the Bison STEM Scholars Program (BSSP).

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