New initiative brings prospective doctoral students to campus

The Access, Diversity and Inclusion team in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School and the Department of Molecular Biology partnered this fall to welcome the inaugural cohort of MOL BIO Scholars to Princeton’s campus. The goal of the program is to advance diversity within the department by providing a special opportunity for college juniors and seniors to visit the campus, meet members of the Department of Molecular Biology, and exchange research ideas with fellow scientists. Nine prospective doctoral students were selected from a national pool of competitive candidates. Applicants were asked to highlight their research experiences and explain their interest in pursuing a doctorate in the graduate program in molecular biology.

The idea originated from the many requests that Dr. Vanessa Gonzalez-Perez, assistant dean for diversity initiatives in the natural sciences, received from prospective students to visit Princeton’s campus and departments before they began the admissions process. Upon hearing the plan, department leaders Bonnie Bassler (chair) and Zemer Gitai (director of graduate studies) readily agreed to developing a new collaboration. Professor Bassler remarked, “MOL was thrilled to partner with the Graduate School to launch this new initiative. We gave an immediate and enthusiastic ‘Yes’ when Dean Gonzalez-Perez presented us with her idea for the Scholars Program. The inaugural year of the program was a spectacular success. MOL members had a ball meeting the Scholars and learning about their science. The Scholars got a close-up look at Princeton and the MOL graduate program, they got the opportunity to be completely immersed in our science and our vibrant culture, and they learned that MOL members are wonderful, welcoming people who make ground-breaking discoveries.”

The selectees were invited to visit Princeton’s campus for three days in October. Following a half-day orientation and campus tour hosted by the Graduate School, the scholars participated in the molecular biology department’s annual retreat, which included graduate student and faculty seminars, networking sessions with the department representatives, and social events. They were also invited to present their own research during the graduate student poster session.

How did their experience as a MOL BIO Scholar impact their decision to apply to Princeton’s doctoral program in molecular biology?  Here is what some of the students had to say:

“The opportunity to interact with faculty members and current graduate students was incredible because it allowed us to see the program for how it is, rather than just statistics and acceptance rates online. This opportunity really put my view on Ivy League schools in check.” Alex Frese, Arizona State University

“I was unsure about Princeton before visiting, but I had an excellent weekend and truly enjoyed listening to the current research and getting to know the faculty. I will definitely apply, and very much hope that I get to join the program next year!” Dylan Maghini, Davidson College

“I only knew the prestige that came with Princeton, but after experiencing the school up close and personal it is now definitely on the list of schools that I will be applying to.” George Walters-Marrah, University of Central Florida

“It has positively encouraged and solidified my decision to apply to the graduate program in molecular biology at Princeton.” Breanna Titchen, Gettysburg College

“It has greatly influenced my decision—I will definitely be applying to Princeton.” Kelcee Everette, Harvard College

To find out more about each 2017 MOL BIO Scholar, please visit the Department Molecular Biology website.

For more information about the program, please contact Dean Vanessa Gonzalez-Perez at molbioscholars@princeton.edu