The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $1.3 million Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) grant to Washington State University to fund underrepresented student researchers on their way to completing a biomedical, research-focused Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. program.

In its first year in 2021–22, the WSU MARC grant will provide four juniors with more than $10,000 for tuition and fees plus $13,600 in a stipend. In its second year and beyond, it will support eight juniors and seniors. Applications are now being accepted on the program’s website.

The institutional training grant for researchers is a MARC T34—WSU’s first for undergraduates. It comes just seven months after another NIH award—a $700,000 Motivating Innovation and Research Achievement (MIRA) grant—was received to support underrepresented incoming freshmen in the Honors College who are also bound for biomedical advanced degrees.

“To receive a total of $2 million in funding to support these future biomedical professionals during their undergraduate years is quite remarkable, and we are grateful for the federal investment,” said Mary F. Wack, vice provost for academic engagement and student achievement.

“We are very pleased to work with several WSU offices, colleges, and schools to make this possible.”

A collaborative project

The MARC program is an opportunity for undergraduate students to embark on a two-year program of scientific research, leadership development, and graduate-school preparation.

The award represents a partnership of the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA), the Graduate School, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Co-PI’s for the MARC program are Mary Sánchez Lanier, assistant vice provost DAESA and professor in the School of Molecular Biosciences; Samantha Gizerian, associate professor in the WSU Dept. of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience (IPN); and Alla Kostyukova, associate professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering. They are also co-directors of the MIRA program.

“We have very accomplished students who will be eligible for one or both of the awards, as well as exceptional faculty eager to mentor them,” said Sanchez Lanier. Twenty-five faculty from multiple disciplines will serve as MARC research mentors. Twenty-eight faculty are mentors for the MIRA program.

First MIRA cohort selected

Five incoming freshmen and one alternate have been accepted already to be members of the first cohort of the MIRA program, said Sanchez Lanier. MIRA can fund students up to four years of their baccalaureate program.

“When they are about to become juniors, they are eligible to apply for the MARC award, depending on eligibility.”