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Last modified: Monday, June 16, 2008

Enrollment doubles at IU's summer STEM program

June 16, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS -- Langston University senior Merrill Brouillette had no doubt about what he wanted to do this summer: go back to the future he envisions after graduation next May.

The Houston native is spending a second summer working in an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) laboratory studying two proteins and their correlation with colon cancer cells. The research, headed by Brouillette's mentor and IU School of Medicine Professor Jian-Tian Zhang, holds out a promise for better medications -- if not a cure -- to treat colon cancer, a disease that kills an estimated 54,000 Americans annually.

2008 STEM Scholars

The 2008 STEM Scholars at Indiana University Bradford Woods Outdoor Education Center

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Brouillette's work in Zhang's lab is the result of a unique partnership between Indiana University and 11 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). That partnership has already had a measure of success in fulfilling its promise to increase the number of minorities in the science, technology, engineering and math professions.

Under the collaborative project named The STEM Initiative -- because it focuses on the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines -- juniors and seniors from the HBCUs can apply for summer research opportunities at Indiana University's two largest campuses, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Indiana University Bloomington.

The current HBCU STEM Initiative partners are Alabama A&M University, Bennett College for Women, Clark Atlanta University, Hampton University, Jackson State University, Langston University, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, North Carolina Central University, Tennessee State University and Xavier University of Louisiana.

Brouillette is one of 20 students from the HBCUs who, along with one IUPUI student and one IU Bloomington student, are the second cohort to attend the Summer Scholars Institute for Students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The eight-week institute is the keystone of the STEM Initiative.

At 22 students, enrollment in this year's Summer Scholars Institute is double that of last year's when the first STEM Scholars worked on research projects involving improving medications for HIV treatment, studying Huntington's disease and developing a car security system that incorporated cell phone technology, just to name a few.

"The STEM Summer Scholars program has been a success in that it has brought outstanding students to IUPUI from institutions whose students did not have Indiana on their radar screens before the program started," said Director of the IUPUI Graduate Office Sherry F. Queener.

"Now, students know we are here and know the high quality of the research done both at IUPUI and IU Bloomington."

STEM Scholars are high-achieving students who are recruited by professors at their home universities. During the summer institute, they receive free room and board, along with a $4,000 stipend. STEM Scholars spend 85 percent of their working hours in the lab with IU faculty mentors. They also meet with faculty and STEM professionals to discuss research and graduate education; participate in a GRE preparation course; and receive academic counseling.

In addition to Brouillette, three other students from Langston University, located in Langston, Okla., are STEM Scholars this year.

"They asked me what it was like, and I encouraged them to apply because it was a great internship. I learned valuable information in the lab last year that will definitely help me with whichever program I am in (come) fall 2009," Brouillette said. "This program has meant a lot to me because the mentors and the program directors take care of you and make sure you learn while having fun at the same time."

Brouillette is one of four inaugural STEM Scholars who have returned for a second summer institute. He also plans to apply to graduate school and earn a doctorate at IUPUI.


Photo by: Chris Meyer

Bryon Gipson is the first Adam W. Herbert Graduate Fellow.

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Two other inaugural STEM Scholars are now Indiana University graduate students. One, Bryon Gipson, began graduate studies at IU Bloomington this spring after earning his bachelor's degree from Jackson State University. Gipson is pursuing a doctorate as the first Adam W. Herbert Graduate Fellow. He is serving his fellowship conducting research into neural mechanisms underlying relapse to drug-seeking behavior in the lab of George V. Rebec, chancellor's professor and director of the Program in Neuroscience.

The Adam W. Herbert Graduate Fellowship award covers most of the tuition and fees for HBCU graduates to attend IU. Doctoral fellows receive stipend awards of $25,000 per year for four years. Master's fellows receive a single-year stipend award of $5,000. Graduate school officials anticipate eventually funding five doctoral students and three master's students each year from a $2 million endowment established to facilitate the STEM Initiative goals.

For additional information about the Summer Scholars Institute, go to

Additional information about the Adam W. Herbert Graduate Fellowship can be found at

Learn more about Bryan Gipson: