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Nation's Top 37 Minority Students Awarded Prestigious UNCF/MERCK Science Scholarships & Fellowships

FAIRFAX, VA,- UNCF–the United Negro College Fund–the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization, and the global research-based pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., Inc., today announced  awards of scholarships and fellowships to 37 African American biological and chemical science students.  The awards were part of the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative, a fifteen-year partnership that has supported 516 promising undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral science students.  UNCF/Merck recipients have gone on to pursue careers in a wide range of disciplines, from biochemistry and microbiology to pharmacology, neuroscience, biophysics, chemistry and bioengineering.

UNCF/Merck scholarships and fellowships include financial support, hands-on training, close mentoring and networking relationships and institutional support.  Recipients are chosen through a competitive application process that selects candidates based on their academic achievements and potential in the field of biomedical research.

"American economic and scientific competitiveness depend on our ability to meet the demand for a more diverse and better-educated workforce by building a pipeline of minority students in the biosciences that starts in preschool and extends through undergraduate study, graduate school and post-doctoral programs," said Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D., UNCF president and CEO. "Merck’s investment in the future of science and education will develop the next generation of research scientists, professors, and teachers of tomorrow."

Between now and 2050, according to the Brookings Institution, the number of African Americans and Hispanics will grow from about 25 percent to nearly 40 percent of the working-age population, and will account for more than 90 percent of total growth in that age range.  Considering the increasingly technology-and innovation-driven nature of the global economy, minority and low income students remain significantly under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the STEM-related fields of study. For every 10,000 ninth grade students in the bottom income quartile in their respective communities, (a demographic which includes a disproportionate number of minorities), only 30 will graduate with a bachelors degree in STEM-related fields, according to "The Narrowing STEM Pipeline for Low-income Students in the US," a 2008 report released by the Louis Stokes Institute for Opportunity in STEM Education.

America’s global competitors, meanwhile, train STEM professionals at a rate far outpacing that of the US. In China, 50 percent of all students receiving undergraduate degrees have majored in natural science or engineering. In South Korea, the figure is 38 percent; in France 47 percent and Singapore 67 percent. But only 15 percent of American college graduates received their degrees in natural science or engineering according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences in 2006.

Understanding the demand and need to address that challenge, Merck awarded UNCF a 10-year $20 million grant in 1995, targeting students pursuing careers in biomedical research at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels. The UNCF/Merck Science Initiative program supported by the Merck Institute for Science Education and Merck Research Laboratories, was renewed in 2006 to provide more than $13 million in additional funding through 2010.


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