McNair Scholars Accepted to Graduate Programs and Summer Research Opportunities

Louis Jacome

McNair Mentor: Dr. Derek Kimball
UNV of Connecticut, Physics  PhD
Penn State University, Physics PhD

Michelle Faust
McNair Mentor: Dr. Michael Groziak,
UNV of California at Davis, Chemistry PhD

Anita Carse
McNair Mentor: Dr.  Benjamin Bowser
Golden Gate UNV, Human Resource Management, MA

Adelita Tinoco
McNair Mentors: Drs. Kimberly Kim and Michelle Tellez
UNV of Michigan, Nursing PhD
UNV of Minnesota, Nursing  PhD
UNV of San Francisco, Nursing MA

Mikel Delgado
McNair Mentor: Dr. Dan Cerutti
UNV Cal Berkeley, Psychology/Behavioral Neuroscience PhD
Washington State UNV, Psychology PhD
UNV of Nebraska, Psychology PhD
Cornell UNV, Psychology PhD

Vita Paramo
Mcnair Mentor: Dr. Luz Calvo
Dominican UNV in Chicago, English as a Second Language, Education  MA


Williams Gains- History
McNair Mentor: Linda Ivey
Yale History Summer Research Seminar (full funding)

Joe Tafoya- Political Science
McNair Mentor: Melissa Michelson
2010 Ralph Bunche Summer Institute (RBSI), which will be held at Duke University, May 30, 2010 through June 30, 2010 (full funding)

Sasha Hin –Biology
McNair Mentor: Maria Gallegos
UC Berkeley Summer Research Opportunity Program (full funding)


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Julie Pyatt Talks About the Value of Mentorship

Since I have been in the McNair Program I have learned so much about applying for grad school. Before McNair, I had no idea how to get to graduate school. The Program’s staff are very pro-active and work closely with scholars throughout the year. Part of this “hands on” approach involves having a plethora of guests speakers, most or all of whom have Ph.D’s  and who explain the step-by-step process of graduate school  work. Additionally, I learned how NOT to make common mistakes when preparing my applications. In several McNair workshops we heard from graduate school administrators on what to avoid when submitting applications. As a McNair Scholar I have learned strategies that gave me an edge and helped me to stand out among prospective graduate students from all over the country.

Working with a faculty mentor who is committed to my success has helped me remain motivated. My mentor, Dr. Nicolas Baham jumped in, with both feet, offering invaluable guidance, advice and academic assistance. The interest my mentor shows to my research is sincere and enthusiastic. Dr. Baham also doubles as my ‘cheerleader’ when I feel discouraged and overwhelmed. Faculty mentorships is an advantage to receiving strong letters of recommendation. Building relationships with faulty as a undergraduate is critical to the graduate school application process.

I also learned a lot from the McNair  Graduate School BOOT CAMP. The graduate school preparation BOOT CAMP is a test of will power, motivation, and endurance. I exceeded my own expectations in all three of these arenas. Not only did this provide a boost in personal confidence, it also gave me the opportunity to meet and truly bond with other members of the McNair group. I consider my McNair family a part of my extended family. It is wonderful to know that whether we run across one another on campus or bump into each years from now, the bond we have will still be recognized.

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Alberto Valdivia’s Reflections on the McNair Program…

The McNair Scholars Program is excellent.

What makes it excellent is the encouragement and motivation the program has to offer, literally propelling you to greatness. Thank you Takiyah, mentors, fellow students, and staff! This program puts you on a permanent path towards graduate school. The goal, long road, and standards are now set and expectations are high but not impossible. A solidarity of students with equally minded goals of pursuing PhD’s are there to support you along the way. Since we are all from different backgrounds and are pursuing different degrees, we are learning about a variety of topics from each other. The commitment that is required for the program is an investment in your personal future. This dedication requires time, research, investigation, analytical writing, thinking, and oral presentation of all of the above. Along the way, we are developing academic relationships with our McNair mentors, encouraging fellow students in their successes, and discovering the possibilities that wait within.

Research can be a roller coaster ride. It has its ups and its downs but it has to be done and is a vital part of the McNair program. Graduate school is based on research. Since this research encompasses some area that the student is passionate about, it does not become redundant. This process can be overwhelming at times as there is a plethora of information out there for one to discover. It is up to the individual student to weed out what they may or may not need and a fine tuning of a thesis can help in doing just that. This is easier said than done, but is made possible through the McNair quarterly meetings, workshops, and mentorship.

With the entirety of the current budget crisis going on in California (and the world), it is now more imperative than ever to keep higher education accessible to all. This pursuit comes with the responsibility to contribute awareness, understanding, techniques, and processes to any and everyone who are motivated to listen. Education is a human right and it is in the McNair Program that this idea is exemplified. The realization of actual students pursuing, being accepted, and graduating from esteemed institutions is a reality with the mentoring system in the McNair Program. This results in breaking the cycle of mediocrity that social main stream media has predestined for underrepresented people. Thank you McNair CSUEB!

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Sasha Hin’s Pathway to Graduate School

My name is Sasha Hin. I am a Biology major with an emphasis in Cellular and Molecular Biology. I was accepted to the McNair Scholars Program in the Summer of 2009. I will apply to graduate schools in the Fall of 2010. My research interest is on the genetic basis of sexual behavior and sex determination. I am very interested in understanding the genetic mechanisms that control mate choice and speciation.

The McNair Scholars Program has given me a sense of what I need to do in order to become a more competitive graduate school applicant. From the beginning of this program, I’ve learned that getting into graduate school requires more than just good grades and amazing GRE scores. I’ve learned that graduate school admission also relies on your curriculum vitae (CV), the letters of recommendation from your professors, and your academic/ laboratory experience in your interested field of study. I’ve also learned that in choosing a graduate school, it is better to attend an institution that is doing research in your field of interest rather than a prestigious institution that is not doing research in your intended field of study.

In preparation for graduate school, I am currently working in the laboratory of Dr. Maria Gallegos of the Biology Department at CSU East Bay. I am also an Instructor’s Aid of the General Chemistry Supplementary class and an Officer of the Student Health Advisory Committee on the CSUEB campus. In addition, I recently completed applications to participate in summer research opportunities at various universities.

The McNair Scholars Program has benefited me in introducing opportunities that would develop my laboratory experience and my knowledge of the graduate school application process. Under the advising of Takiyah Franklin, the McNair Scholars Program Coordinator, and the support I have recieved from other McNair Scholars, I feel that I am on the right track in preparing myself for graduate school.

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Guide: How to contact faculty at the Graduate School of your choice

Alejandro Escalante-Flores senior McNair Scholar, offers a guide to contacting faculty…read on

 When contacting faculty at the graduate school of your choice, the most important thing is to not get discouraged when someone doesn’t email you back. One thing I’ve learned in my many times of emailing professors is that most of the time only about 30% of the professors will email you back. When sending emails to professors make sure you have a good subject line. In talks with my past mentors, all of them have told me that they never read most of their emails. When I asked them why, they said  the subject line of the message didn’t catch their eye. Most professors are too busy to read emails. Try to think of a title that engages their current research.

Second, make sure to introduce yourself. Within the first couple of sentences describe your research interest and share your academic achievements.

Here is a sample of a letter I wrote last year, I just added the McNair part to show how to amplify your achievements.

(Dear Dr. (Fill in),

 Hello, my name is Alejandro Escalante Flores and I am writing to you in the hopes that you would be interested in giving me the opportunity to work in your lab this summer. I’m a Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program Scholar, a N.S.F. Louis Stokes A.M.P. Scholar and a three-time N.S.F. Louis Stokes A.M.P. Scholarship recipient. After researching graduate school programs, I believe that the Cell and Molecular Biology Joint Doctoral Program at San Diego State University is the best fit for me. While looking at the faculty members in the department and after reading about your research, I became very interested in your research of planarians for the investigation of the mechanisms that underline the stem cell based regeneration and remodeling of the CNS)….

Using this same letter and changing a few things around, I received responses from professors at U of Washington, SDSU, USC, Duke, Vanderbilt and Stanford.

In the letter make sure  to mention your short-term and long-term goals. For example, a short-term goal is to get more experience under them as a researcher. A long-term goal is to earn your PhD from their school. Also, be sure to mention what areas of their research you are interested in and why.

Working in a research lab with a professor who is not your top choice might open your eyes to other areas of research. Accepting a second choice lab experience is a great way to get into a department and network.  My old boss who was the admissions director for the genetics graduate program at Stanford explained,  networking with people will cause them to remember you and say “isn’t this that intern you had during the summer that worked their butts off? We want students like that here!”

Lab experience in general will look great on your curriculum vita (CV).   Research experience can open many doors for you.

Got more questions?  Just shot me an email.

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What has been the most rewarding, challenging, and/or frustrating part of your involvement in the McNair Program and how have you managed it?

Ginika Ogbu responds:

The most rewarding part of the McNair program is learning about how to navigate through graduate applications and admissions. Before I was a McNair scholar I knew that I wanted to go to graduate school but did not know about the entire process. After being in the program I have a better understanding of the application process, expectations and exceptions. Also it is rewarding to be surrounded in a welcoming environment with mentors, professors and peers who are willing to help each scholar reach their goal. Being a McNair scholar involves dedication, persistence and energy. I have managed to be a McNair scholar by learning how to balance my involvement in this program and classes. In the end I hope to achieve my goals and for more things to come.

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Mark Selzer Describes the McNair Program to Curious Students…

 First and foremost, the Program gives McNair Scholars actual research experience. Scholars are required to complete a research project with the help of a faculty mentor, which foreshadows the dissertation required to obtain a PhD. A dissertation is usually a book-length work that a graduate student must complete under the guidance of a faculty adviser. The McNair program gives McNair scholars the chance to do research as undergrads, so that the dissertation will not be such a dreadful beast when they find themselves in graduate school. This is especially important considering that a large percentage of students do not complete the graduate programs they were admitted to. Being accepted into a graduate program is one thing, completing it is another.

Secondly, the McNair program gives the a to z on the graduate school admission process. If someone is serious about getting into graduate school, the McNair program is the best resource out there. Plus, having the title “McNair Scholar” in a graduate application carries a lot of weight.

The McNair program will teach you how to get into graduate school and what to do when you are there. At what price though? Time and effort. You will need to attend all the McNair workshops, meetings, and colloquiums, which totals to at least 15 hours a quarter. In addition, you will need to spend at least a few hours on your research every week. On top of that, you will probably spend at least an hour every week with your mentor. Participating in the McNair program is no small commitment. However, if you can make the commitment, then the pay-off is huge.

Out of all the graduation school admissions information programs I have been to, the McNair Scholars Program has helped me understand the process more than all the others combined. The program explained to us in great detail how to choose a graduate program, how to write personal statements and statements of purpose, how to prepare for the GRE, how to explain GRE scores in applications, how to contact faculty, and so forth. You name it, and the McNair Scholar Program will explain it. The acceptance record for scholars in the program is a testament to the quality and quantity of the information the McNair program provides regarding graduate school admissions.

Simply applying to graduate programs has been my greatest accomplishment in the McNair Program. Originally, I felt too pressured by work and my coursework to apply this year. I resigned myself to postpone applying until next year. However, I found the strength to apply this year thanks to the inspiration and motivation the McNair program lent me.

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