Graduates of Postbac Initiative to begin neuroscience graduate programs

Neuroscience postbac scholars Dennisha King, Raquel Miralles and Yessica Santana

Scholars in the second cohort of OHSU’s Neuroscience Postbaccalaureate Initiative have all been accepted to neuroscience graduate programs. Their readiness for graduate school is a significant measure of success for the initiative.

Pictured above: 2019 scholars, left to right, Dennisha King, Raquel Miralles and Yessica Santana.

The initiative provides a paid one-year mentored research and skill-development experience for college graduates from underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in neuroscience-related careers.

The 2019 cohort

Dennisha King project focused on testing whether alpha-synuclein binds specific DNA conformations in the lab of Vivek Unni. Dennisha received offers from all four programs where she interviewed and will be studying neuroscience as a first year graduate student at the University of Rochester in the fall.

Raquel Miralles was mentored in Skyler Jackman’s lab. Her research culminated with a poster titled “Synaptotagmin-3 is a presynaptic calcium sensor that mediates short-term plasticity without affecting other synaptic properties”. Raquel will continue her studies as a neuroscience graduate student at the University of Virigina this fall.

Yessica Santana completed her postbac in the lab of Kevin Wright. She was invited to present her work titled “Isl1is required for the specification and morphological maturation of starburst amacrine cells” at the regional Developmental Biology meeting (canceled due to covid-19). Yessica will join the OHSU Neuroscience Graduate Program this fall.

The postbac initiative’s third cohort comprises two incoming researchers and will begin in the fall 2020. They scholars have been accepted and will be introduced soon!

The Initiative

Trainees receive guidance in everything from graduate school applications to experiment design. They perform full-time research on specific mentored projects and meet weekly with director of diversity in research Letisha Wyatt, Ph.D., and professional development. They also participate in journal clubs and seminars, and get to know current graduate students to help develop an understanding of the graduate school experience and its expectations.

OHSU Neuroscience Postbaccalaureate Initiative was launched in 2018 by the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Vollum Institute and OHSU Research & Innovation to increase the diversity of neuroscience researchers.

“Generally for Ph.D. programs, you’re expected to get research experience on volunteer or unpaid internship status prior to applying,” said Wyatt. “Unless you come from a privileged background, many people don’t have the resources to work for free. In order to diversify science in academia, we need to pay people for their time and provide mentored training.”

Scholars learn to network at events with OHSU and Portland-area scholars and are included in special events throughout the year. This includes an annual retreat hosted by the Neuroscience Graduate Program and Department of Behavioral Neuroscience for all students and faculty.