A new initiative called the UofL Bridges to Baccalaureate (ULBB) program will provide a pipeline of support and mentoring for underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students enrolled in two-year science degree programs at Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC). The program will be for students who plan to complete a four-year degree at the University of Louisville (UofL) in a biomedical or health-related field.

ULBB launches this fall thanks to a $900,000 National Institutes of Health five-year training grant. The funding will support eight freshman JCTC students this year and 16 students in years two through five.

Sham S. Kakar, PhD, MBA, is a professor in the Department of Physiology and the James Graham Brown Cancer Center. Kakar, along with JCTC Dean of Academic Affairs Randall Davis, PhD, are program directors on the grant.

"Our goal is to improve success rates not only of the transfer students in the ULBB program itself, but also to help develop an environment in which more STEM students make a successful transition from JCTC to UofL to biomedical careers," Kakar said.

Highlights of the program include mentoring, help with courses, career counseling and advising both prior to and after transferring to UofL; an opportunity to take a UofL biology course at JCTC tuition rate; and a summer research program after the first year at JCTC to learn biomedical research skills, a $5,000 salary. Students will also have research presentation opportunities at local and national scientific conferences and networking and planning opportunities for the next steps after college.

The first group of JCTC students are expected to start the ULBB program in October.

Other collaborators on the grant include: Joshua Irving, PhD, chair, Department of Physiology; Cynthia Corbitt, PhD, associate professor, Department of Biology; Adrienne Bratcher, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Exercise Physiology; and Paul Florence, MS, professor, JCTC.