Columbia University's Bridge to the Ph.D. Program in STEM Expands into the Fields of Economics and Engineering

The Bridge Program to the Ph.D. will extend into the STEM disciplines of engineering and economics starting in fall 2019.

January 16, 2019

The Bridge to the Ph.D. Program in STEM promotes greater access to graduate studies by providing intensive research, coursework and mentoring experiences for post-baccalaureate scholars from underrepresented groups.

The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion, and the Department of Economics at Columbia University are pleased to announce that the Bridge Program to the Ph.D. will extend into the STEM disciplines of engineering and economics starting in fall 2019 with the Bridge Program’s 12th cohort. Over 80% of Bridge alumni either are enrolled in Ph.D. programs or have received their doctorates. 

The Bridge to the Ph.D. Program aims to enhance the participation of students from underrepresented groups in Ph.D. programs in STEM disciplines. To achieve this goal, the Bridge Program provides an intensive research, coursework and mentoring experience to post-baccalaureates seeking to strengthen their graduate school applications and prepares them for the transition into graduate school. Scholars of the Bridge Program are supervised and mentored by Columbia University faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and/or graduate students. The Bridge to the Ph.D. Program is largely funded by the Office of the Provost (Faculty Diversity Initiative) and grants from the National Science Foundation.

The Bridge Program is a unique, cross-disciplinary course of study intended for students who are interested in pursuing graduate studies in various STEM disciplines, i.e. astronomy, biological sciences, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, economics, engineering, physics, and psychology. Bridge alumni have not only gone on to Ph.D. programs at Columbia University, but also to those at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Caltech, Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University, University at Albany – State University of New York, the University of Florida, the University of Washington, and Yale University, among others. 

Dr. Dennis A. Mitchell serves as the Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion for Columbia University and Senior Associate Dean for Diversity for the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. In his role as Vice Provost, he is responsible for leading the University’s ongoing commitment to attract, advance, and retain a diverse faculty.  Dr. Mitchell states, "Pipeline programs like Bridge to the PhD are a crucial component of our efforts to diversify the professoriate. Given the strong foundation the Bridge program provides, we are thrilled about the expansion to Columbia Engineering and the Department of Economics.”

There is a true level of commitment and fortitude that these scholars exhibit through the Bridge Program. This is evident by the number of first-author manuscripts published, both while in or after the Bridge Program; the transition into the traditional academic career pipeline; and the successful entry into “alternative” career paths.

Bridge alumnus Richard Lopez, Ph.D. notes, "As more time passes and I continue on my academic path, I better recognize and appreciate the value of The Bridge Program. It not only provided me with a realistic 'simulation' of life in graduate school in many respects, but also a community of peers with whom I could grow and learn. This aspect of the program is critical, especially given the isolation people sometimes feel in their scholarly pursuits.” Dr. Lopez has received his Ph.D. from Dartmouth and currently is a postdoctoral fellow in the Translational Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at Rice University.

Current Bridge scholar Sania Khalid is focusing on Neuroscience. She says “I believe that the Bridge to Ph.D. program is valuable and unique in its commitment to diversity. The Bridge program provided an essential academic support system for me, as a woman of color, to pursue a career in the STEM fields. The program gave me an opportunity to conduct independent research and learn skills not limited to a laboratory setting but a career in higher education. I am proud to be part of a community of mentorship that is actively supporting students with the goal of making higher education a more inclusive field.”

“We welcome the addition of engineering to Columbia’s successful Bridge to Ph.D. program and are proud to house the program in this next phase of growth,” said Mary C. Boyce, Dean of Engineering and Morris A. and Alma Schapiro Professor. “Our school is committed to helping build a diverse pipeline of talented leaders who will be the next generation of engineers and applied scientists, as well as innovators in government, industry, academia, or any field they choose to enter. This program will ensure more students have access to a quality education focused on the biggest issues and most relevant fields of our time.”

“The Bridge to Ph.D. program has had a very successful start at Columbia in the natural sciences and the Department of Economics is very happy to join,” said Bernard Salanié, Professor and Chair of the Department of EconomicsWe look forward to helping a more diverse set of talented students obtain a doctoral degree in our field, so that they can contribute to pushing the research frontier as well as to the debate on economic policy." 

Although there have been previous collaborations between the Bridge Program and Columbia Engineering, this expansion has placed the Bridge Program in its new home, Columbia Engineering’s Office of Graduate Student Affairs, led by Associate Dean Tiffany Simon.  She says “The Office of Graduate Student Affairs is delighted to be the new home of the Bridge to Ph.D. program and we are dedicated to supporting the mission and goals of this amazing program.”  

 “I am really excited to see what the future will hold for our expansion. I look forward to working with both Columbia Engineering and the Department of Economics to ensure that we will continue to support access to higher education in STEM disciplines for underrepresented populations,” states Bridge Program Director Kwame Osei-Sarfo, Ph.D.

For more information about the Columbia Bridge to Ph.D. in STEM Program, visit its Twitter feed (@cubridgetophd) and Facebook page or contact Dr. Kwame Osei-Sarfo (