Building a Diverse Pipeline

Columbia is home to many programs that serve as a bridge for candidates from historically underrepresented groups to advance from undergraduate to graduate studies, graduate studies to faculty positions, and junior faculty positions to research independence.  

The Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement is proud to support two such programs:

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Bridge to the Ph.D. Program in STEM

The Bridge to the Ph.D. Program is designed to increase the participation of students from underrepresented groups in Ph.D. programs in STEM fields. 

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Provost Diversity Fellowship Program

The Provost Diversity Fellowship Program is designed to support underrepresented Columbia Ph.D. students through a supplementary stipend and professional development programming. 

Undergraduate Programs

This program enhances the participation of students from underrepresented groups in Ph.D. programs in STEM.  With funding from the National Science Foundation, the Bridge Program provides an intensive research, coursework, and mentoring experience to post-baccalaureates seeking to strengthen their graduate school applications and to prepare for the transition into Ph.D. programs.

The goal of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Summer Research Program (SRP) for undergraduates from historically underrepresented groups is to prepare students for doctoral study in their area of academic and intellectual interest. The program's purpose is to expose underrepresented students to graduate-level academic research so that they may begin to view the academy as a viable and realistic career path, thereby addressing the shortage of underrepresented minorities in doctoral study and college and university faculties.

With funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, BEST was established by the Mailman School’s Department of Biostatistics in 2008 to expand and diversify the behavioral and biomedical sciences’ workforce by introducing undergraduates from underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups, disadvantaged backgrounds, and students with disabilities to biostatistics and quantitative applications in cardiovascular, blood, sleep, and pulmonary disease research.  

The Summer Public Health Scholars Program (SPHSP) is designed for undergraduate students and its goal is to increase interest in and knowledge of public health and biomedical science careers. SPHSP is a partnership of the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, College of Dental MedicineSchool of Nursing, and the Mailman School of Public Health. Together, they represent the broad spectrum of public health practice. SPHSP grant funding was awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Office of Minority Health, and Health Equity (OMHHE).

The Summer Program for Underrepresented Students (SPURS) provides an intense undergraduate biomedical research experience for talented students from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in the biology and chemistry fields. SPURS main goal is to help minority science undergraduate students, primarily from New York City, achieve a career in science by pursuing an advanced degree (Ph.D., M.D./ Ph.D. or M.D.).  SPURS participants are accepted primarily from the City University of New York (CUNY) senior colleges, including Hunter, Brooklyn, Queens, and City Colleges.  The program has been supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Fund and other private donors.  Now in its ninth year, over 100 students from underrepresented groups have been trained in the biological sciences.  With funding from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the program will be expanded into the neurosciences to leverage the training opportunities with the outstanding faculty at Columbia University.

The Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) is a free summer enrichment program focused on improving access to information and resources for college students interested in the health professions. SHPEP’s goal is to strengthen the academic proficiency and career development of students underrepresented in the health professions and prepare them for a successful application and matriculation to health professions schools. These students include, but are not limited to, individuals who identify as African American/Black, American Indian and Alaska Native and Hispanic/Latino, and who are from communities of socioeconomic and educational disadvantage. SHPEP, formerly known as the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), expanded in 2016 to include a broader array of health professions.

The State Pre-College Enrichment Program (S-PREP) is a rigorous academic program for underrepresented minority and economically disadvantaged middle and high school students, grades 7-12, interested in science, medicine or related health professions. The program aims to be a pipeline that will assist with increasing the number of underrepresented minority physicians, scientists and other health professionals. The program exposes students to basic and medical sciences, provides career awareness in science and medical professions, and college preparation.  

Funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration, the NERA MedPrep Scholars Program builds on the collective expertise of four institutions—Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New Jersey Medical School, Mount Sinai School of Medicine Center for Multicultural and Community Affairs, and the Manhattan Staten Island Area Health Education Center – to expand health careers preparation for minority and disadvantaged students from junior high school through medical school with the goal of increasing competitiveness for medical school. 

Masters Programs

The goal of the NSF S-STEM project at Columbia Engineering is to prepare a cohort of engineers to meet some of the societal and environmental challenges with a particular emphasis on the areas of water, energy and infrastructure. This program focuses on a research based master’s degree that affords program participants with a well-supported segue between an undergraduate degree in engineering and a doctoral program.

Doctoral and Junior Faculty Programs

The National Science Foundation’s Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program was developed to meet the challenges of educating U.S. PhD scientists and engineers who will pursue careers in research and education, with the interdisciplinary backgrounds, deep knowledge in chosen disciplines, and technical, professional, and personal skills to become, in their own careers, leaders and creative agents for change. Offering traineeships to students pursuing their PhDs, the program is intended to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.  It is also intended to facilitate diversity in student participation and preparation, and to contribute to a world-class, broadly inclusive, and globally engaged science and engineering workforce.  Columbia University is home to four IGERT programs: 

  • Solving Urbanization Challenges by Design: A New PhD Program Between Architecture and Engineering - School of Engineering and Applied Science The goal of this IGERT program is to integrate architectural and engineering PhD education in a new interdisciplinary program that aims to fundamentally transform design and planning approaches to contemporary urban expansion. IGERT trainees will make use of emerging science and technology research at the interface of architecture and engineering to develop new paradigms that enable urban areas to adapt to changing requirements, absorb disturbance and effectively reorganize and recover, and reduce their impact on the natural environment.  Collaborations with universities in urban environments located within Europe, Africa and Asia will provide a global perspective to the program. This IGERT program will graduate a cohort of diverse doctoral students who can help shape the policies, priorities, and investments needed for contemporary urbanization. Participants include students and faculty from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, School of International and Public Affairs, Mailman School of Public Health, and Earth Institute.
  • Engineering Photons for a Sustainable Future – School of Engineering and Applied Science This IGERT program facilitates the unique interdisciplinary training of PhD scientists and engineers in the field of sustainable and renewable energy solutions. The energy economy is an immediate and grand challenge that must be tackled by current and future generations of scientists and engineers.  This program addresses this challenge by focusing on technology innovations in two subsystems of direct relevance: next-generation solar photovoltaics, and next-generation efficient optical data and communications networks.  The cross-training scientific research is synergistically integrated with innovative educational approaches and an emphasis on underrepresented groups.  Working with major industrial partners, the IGERT will conduct outreach to undergraduate and K-12 schools in Harlem and Nashville, encouraging underrepresented groups to enter science, technology, engineering, and mathematics areas of higher education.
  • From Data to Solutions: A New PhD Program in Transformational Data & Information Sciences Research and Innovation – School of Engineering and Applied Science This IGERT program provides PhD students with the interdisciplinary training necessary to extract useful information from vast amounts of collected data.  Consumer opinions, information on disease and its symptoms, and breaking information on social websites allow information gathering on a scale previously unknown.  Columbia University and the City University of New York, in collaboration with international partners in Argentina and Brazil, have created a new program involving the interdisciplinary training of students in making sense of big data.  Researchers from Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Psychology, and Statistics are partnering with Biomedical Informatics, Business and Journalism to educate this next generation of information scientists. Aided by advisors from large corporations, major research labs, and small start-up companies, the program encourages IGERT trainees to pursue patents, and to apply their research in society. A major goal of the program is to attract more diverse students to information sciences by emphasizing real world applications, a supportive environment, and diverse faculty role models.
  • Optical techniques for actuation, sensing, and imaging of biological systems – School of Engineering and Applied Science In this IGERT program a new generation of scientists and engineers will be trained through a set of five research thrusts that cross three fundamental core competency areas: optics, photonics, and sensor electronics; biomolecular detection and cellular-level analysis; and applications to medicine and public health. With 19 faculty members representing academic departments across Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Arts and Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Teachers College, and incorporating strong interaction with City College, Queens College, and The Cooper Union in New York City, IGERT trainees will experience a truly diverse community sharing in integrated educational and research activities and will be exposed to a wide spectrum of cutting-edge applications. This program fulfills a compelling need to train a diverse workforce of U. S. scientists and engineers trained in an area of large and growing competitive importance to the United States. Significant resources are committed to ensuring recruitment and retention of participants from underrepresented groups.

The Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD), an education project funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, is aimed at increasing the number of underrepresented students who enter research careers in public health. The program supports eight doctoral students with one to two years of research mentoring, tuition benefits, and funding to attend scientific conferences.