Commitment to Underrepresented Students and Students with Disabilities

UCLA is located in a diverse cultural environment, and special attention has been focused on promoting the inclusion of underrepresented individuals at the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels.  The commitment of UCLA to have a student body that reflects the ethnic balance of the Southern California region is demonstrated by the fact that the latest US News and World Report on “Best Colleges” has UCLA as tied for the 11th most ethnically diverse national university (https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/campus-ethnic-diversity).  Furthermore, UCLA continues to expand its efforts into improving campus diversity through the efforts of Professor Jerry Kang, who has been the Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for almost five years.

The Cellular and Molecular Biology Training Program is proud of it’s record in recruiting underrepresented students to UCLA and to the training grant.  We are committed to taking full advantage of the tremendous talent pool in our diverse population.  The Graduate Programs in Bioscience (GPB), which includes six graduate programs that supply students to the CMB training program, and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, with two additional graduate programs that supply students to the CMB training program, each have multipronged recruitment strategies, and CMB faculty and trainees are involved in many of these strategies.  First, UCLA bioscience graduate PhD programs advertise our acceptance of diverse candidates online through program webpages and send flyers to undergraduate bioscience programs and research training programs across the country.  Additionally, these graduate programs advertise and recruit students at national meetings like the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB).  For example, Steven Clarke, the former CMB Director and current CMB faculty member, along with CMB trainee Ramsey Macdonald attended the 2018 ASBMB meeting where they had an information table representing the CMB training grant and UCLA bioscience graduate programs during the undergraduate research poster session.  Similarly, CMB Director Jorge Torres delivered the 2019 ASBMB Ruth Kirschstein Diversity in Science Award lecture where he highlighted opportunities for PhD studies at UCLA and the CMB training program.  Additionally, Torres was the recipient of the 2019 ASCB Prize for Excellence in Inclusivity and was featured in a video that was shown in front of thousands at the ASCB meeting, which included a snippet of the first-year CMB trainees with Torres as a form of advertisement for the CMB training program.

Second, the UCLA Undergraduate Research Center coordinates numerous research programs that offer research and career development opportunities for underrepresented undergraduate students from UCLA and other universities/colleges across the country.  Programs specific for UCLA students include the Beckman Scholars program and NIH funded programs like Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) and Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD).  Programs open to non-UCLA students include the Amgen Scholars program and the UC Leadership Excellence Through Advanced Degrees (UC LEADS) program.  Together, these programs represent a talented pool of students within UCLA and from across the nation that are recruited to the biosciences PhD programs and the CMB training program.  CMB trainees are strongly encouraged to mentor these undergraduate researchers whenever possible.

Third, UCLA faculty, and especially CMB training faculty, have long been actively presenting and recruiting students at “diversity in science” conferences like the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS)and theSociety for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference.  For example, CMB faculty member Jose Rodriquez and CMB trainees Maria Flores and Troy Lowe attended the 2018 ABRCMS meeting.  Similarly the CMB Director and CMB trainee Joseph Ong attended the 2018 SACNAS conference and Professor Torres presented in the “Cell Biology: Ins and Outs” session.  At both meetings, CMB faculty and students were present to promote UCLA graduate programs and the CMB training grant.  Finally, the CMB Associate Director Elissa Hallem has committed her HHMI Gilliam Fellowship funds to send two Immunity, Microbes and Molecular Pathogenesis (IMMP) graduate students to SACNAS or ABRCMS to recruit undergraduate students in the coming years.    

Fourth, the directors of graduate studies for the eight graduate programs that supply students to the CMB are often asked to speak at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) including Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).  This offers an opportunity to recruit diverse students to UCLA bioscience graduate and training programs.  For example, the CMB Director has taken trips to MSIs like the University of Texas at El Paso and California State University Los Angeles and given talks to students enrolled in NIH-funded research programs (like MARC, IMSD, RISE, and BUILD) aimed at preparing them for advanced science degrees.  The major aims of these visits are to build connections with undergraduate research program directors and student researchers that will establish a pipeline for students to enter UCLA bioscience graduate PhD programs and become potential CMB trainees. 

The CMB Training Program participates in the UCLA California State University Symposium.  Of the 23 California State University (CSU) campuses, 21 are Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) where >40% of the student population is Hispanic.  Recognizing this talented and diverse pool of students, the GPB hosts an annual CSU bioscience symposium with the aim of recruiting these students to UCLA.  CSU students are invited to visit the campus, meet with the directors of graduate programs, learn about bioscience graduate programs and training grants like the CMB, and have short interviews/meetings with faculty whose research they are interested in.  The CMB Director and several CMB trainees are on hand to meet with these students and discuss all the benefits and opportunities that are made available through the CMB program.

The CMB Training Program also participates in theUCLA Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Initiative.  As part of the greater UC HBCU initiative, the UCLA HBCU initiative provides summer research and career development opportunities to bioscience undergraduate students from HBCUs that are keen on entering PhD graduate programs and are interested in UCLA bioscience graduate programs.  These students come from various HBCUs including North Carolina Central University, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Howard University, and Tuskegee University.  Many of these students are exposed to CMB faculty members and their research programs through weekly faculty research presentations, poster presentation sessions, and by conducting summer research in their labs.  For example, over the last five years eight different CMB faculty members have mentored summer HBCU students and some have mentored several students, including the CMB Director who has mentored four HBCU students in the last five years.  The major goal of this program is to recruit these students to UCLA graduate programs and to graduate training programs like the CMB.

The CMB Training Program takes great pride in creating a welcoming environment for students with disabilities and in accommodating and training students with disabilities.  The UCLA Center for Accessible Education (CAE) coordinates on-campus efforts to recruit and retain graduate students with disabilities.  CAE offers a myriad of services for students with physical, psychological, or learning disabilities including screening and diagnosis of disabilities, determination of the types of accommodations, and implementation of these accommodations without fundamentally changing the student’s academic or research program.  Prospective and current CMB students are encouraged to learn more about the resources available to students with disabilities and how to seek accommodations related to their disabilities at the CAE website (https://www.cae.ucla.edu/students).