Three A&S Graduate Students Named Bridge to the Doctorate Fellows

By Jenny Wells-Hosley

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 8, 2020) — The Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, spearheaded by the University of Kentucky, has named nine of its first cohort of Bridge to the Doctorate fellows. Among them are three doctoral students in the College of Arts & Sciences.

The program supports a total of 12 graduate students from underrepresented populations who are pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines at UK.

Each fellow will receive a $32,000-a -year stipend as well as support for cost of education for two years through the grant. Fellows will receive coaching, academic and community support, professional development, and access to opportunities for research, writing and presentation.

The fellowships are supported by a $1 million National Science Foundation award the program received this summer.The alliance is made up of 10 colleges and universities working together to broaden participation and increase the quality and quantity of underrepresented students in STEM.

Fellows in the College of Arts & Sciences are:

  • Abelline Fionah, a graduate of Ball State University, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in chemistry at UK. Fionah’s past research centered on the synthesis of multicomponent heterostructures for enhanced light-driven degradation of organic contaminants.
  • Kayla Titialii-Torres, a graduate of Washington State University, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in biology at UK. Titialii-Torres' research focuses on the short- and long-term effects of high blood glucose on retinal development and regeneration using the zebrafish as a model. Long-term, she is interested in continuing to conduct research and influencing policies that affect scientific research, communication and education.
  • Andres Vindas Melendez, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and San Francisco State University, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in mathematics at UK. Vindas Melendez’s career aspiration is to become a mathematics professor to advance mathematical knowledge through research and to inspire interest for mathematical discovery among students.

"We are excited to support these talented students," said Fara Williams, director of the program. "They are becoming a cohesive cohort and helping us to learn and develop programming that will increase recruitment and retention of URM students in STEM graduate programs now and in the future."

Since receiving renewed funding in 2018, KY-WV LSAMP has grown from 280 to 378 student participants. More than 50% of its graduating students continue  their education in graduate programs.

Named in honor of the former Ohio congressman, the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program is an alliance-based initiative designed to assist universities and colleges in diversifying the nation's STEM work force by increasing the number of STEM baccalaureate and graduate degrees awarded to populations historically underrepresented. Overall, the program provides funding to alliances that implement comprehensive, evidence-based, innovative and sustained strategies that ultimately result in the graduation of well-prepared, highly qualified students from underrepresented minority groups who pursue graduate studies or careers in STEM.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.


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