“Science knows no country because knowledge belongs to humanity.” Louis Pasteur spoke those words nearly 150 years ago. It’s a beautiful idea. But more than a century later, science still fails to live up to it in many ways. Thankfully, at least some influential individuals and organizations in the scientific community have recognized this issue. And they’re trying to do something about it.
This June, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) launched a new work-study program for recent college graduates from communities that are underrepresented in science. PREP, the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program, aims to help prepare these students for success at the graduate level. That’s its immediate goal. Moreover, the program seeks to improve the world of science by bringing in diverse viewpoints and skill sets.
On June 20, CSHL welcomed its first cohort of PREP scholars to the institution. Here, they will receive hands-on lab experience and professional development training. Each CSHL PREP scholar is now working in the lab of a participating faculty member of their choosing. In addition to conducting research with this scientist, the scholar has a direct mentor in the lab and a near-peer mentor who is a graduate student.
Monn Monn Myat is the associate dean of CSHL’s School of Biological Sciences and director of its PREP program. “For the School of Biological Sciences, the PREP program has been a labor of love,” she says. “We recognized from the beginning what an enriching experience CSHL could provide. And when the 10 candidates arrived on campus to interview, it was an unbelievably satisfying moment. We think the CSHL PREP program has something special to offer, as the first five offers we made were all accepted, some within minutes! We’re very excited about the talent and diverse experiences our PREP scholars will bring to the CSHL community.”
CSHL is one of 52 institutions in the U.S. currently hosting a PREP program. Notably, it’s the only one that is a research institution and not a major university or medical school. CSHL PREP scholars also have the unique opportunity to participate in the Laboratory’s world-renowned Meetings & Courses Program. This enables them to learn from the greatest minds in the field—from institutions all across the globe—and network with these thought leaders directly.
PREP scholars get financial support through the National Institute of General Medicine. To be eligible, students must come from groups that are underrepresented in the U.S. health science fields. Such groups include Blacks, Latinos, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, persons with disabilities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Charla Lambert is director of the CSHL Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. She says PREP is part of the Laboratory’s “pathway programs” strategy to address the need for diversity across science research and education. This strategy also includes events like Science Forward. “I’m excited to see what CSHL’s PREP scholars will accomplish with access to the supportive and collaborative training CSHL provides,” Lambert says.