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Diversity and Student Success, an initiative of The Graduate School, held its annual research symposium on Tuesday, which drew nearly 100 undergraduate student scholars from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds to present research in order to foster a pipeline to graduate education.

Research symposium participant Jasmine Jahad, a UNC School of Medicine Department of Pharmacology Carolina Summer Fellow, presented on the impact of electronic nicotine vapor on the brains of mice and how they express withdrawal behavior. Jahad conducted her research under the direction of Melissa Herman, an assistant professor at the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies and alongside Herman’s neuroscience graduate student laboratory assistant ManHua Zhu. Jahad said the research experience taught her that science is not always a straightforward process.

Jasmine Jahad
Jasmine Jahad

“You sometimes have hardships and things that may potentially go wrong or may not be the outcome that you’re looking for,” Jahad said. “That’s what makes a great scientist: If something doesn’t go your way, you can figure out why or overcome it by thinking ‘what can I do to make this experiment better?'”

She said the summer experience nudged her to consider graduate school by demystifying the student experience, including how clinical rotations work.

“You’re able to figure out what lab environment fits you and what research you think would be the most interesting and the most beneficial in your career,” she said.

More than 200 undergraduate students from around the country, including many from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, participated in the ten-week Summer Undergraduate Pipeline (SUP) program, which culminates in the research symposium for students who choose to participate.

Kate McAnulty, the associate dean for student affairs at The Graduate School, welcomed dozens of participants to the symposium, held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The list of presentations and abstracts show the broad range of exciting research that you were engaged in, and it’s our hope that the experience provided a valuable glimpse into graduate student research and further motivation to pursue it,” McAnulty said.

McAnulty said that graduate education provides many benefits to communities, including personal and scientific discovery.

“The relationships and collaborations that you’ll make, the challenges that you will overcome, the persistence that you must show, the goals that you will reach, are all part of what makes the graduate journey special,” McAnulty said. “We hope you will strongly consider continuing your education here at UNC-Chapel Hill, but regardless, we wish you the best in your future endeavors and appreciate your work with us this summer.”

The SUP initiative partnered with more than 20 summer research programs to deliver a series of five professional development seminars during June and July. The seminars covered a variety of topics, including a graduate student panel, writing a personal statement, and drafting a resume.

Diversity and Student Success leads several initiatives for the success of graduate students. Recognizing the intersectionality of identity, DSS strives to promote inclusion and acceptance among graduate students.

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