prep students

About PREP for Minority Students

More about PREP for Minority Students
The PREP program seeks to increase the level of qualified minority applicants to our graduate programs by offering minority students the opportunity to work for a year in a biomedical research laboratory while preparing for Graduate School in the biomedical sciences.
If you become a USC PREP Scholar, you will:

  • Spend one year working as an employee with pay in a federally-funded biomedical research laboratory to learn the nature of research in general and specific biomedical techniques.
  • Enter the program in late June for a summer program that includes an introductory course and the opportunity to learn about all aspects of USC biomedical research.
  • Receive research and academic guidance from faculty mentors as well as advanced graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
  • Take graduate level biomedical courses in the fall and spring semester to demonstrate an ability to handle the intellectual requirements of graduate education. This should also give you a good start in your future formal graduate education since graduate credits obtained as a PREP Scholar will be transferable if you stay at USC for your graduate education and may be transferable to other programs.
  • Correct deficiencies in your undergraduate education through tutorials or appropriate coursework.
  • Learn about the ethics and responsibilities of biomedical research.
  • Have an opportunity to present your research at local and national meetings and ultimately publish it in peer-reviewed journals.

By participating in USC PREP, the scholar will have the opportunity to decide if biomedical research is the correct career choice.
History of our Program
The USC-PREP started in 2006 and around 75% of our PREP Scholars have entered graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. degree. The first PREP Scholar to complete his doctoral degree was Dr Alvin McKelvy (pictured above). Alvin worked on pain with Dr Sarah Sweitzer at the School of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience and became a post-doctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University Medical School. He is now a regulatory specialist with a biotech company. Our second PREP Scholar to gain a Ph.D. degree was Dr Obiamaka Obianyo who worked with Dr Paul Thompson on the synthesis of anti-cancer drugs in the USC Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Obie is now at the The Scripps Research Institute, Palm Beach, Florida. Others have entered prestigious post-doctoral programs and are now working in higher education, government institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control or industry. Our program has been enthusiastically supported by NIH for ten years and in 2016 was fully refunded for years 11 to 15,
Rationale for USC PREP
Minority students tend to be under-represented in biomedical doctoral programs and in biomedical research careers; for example, approximately 30% of the population of South Carolina is African American but fewer than 10% of the applicants to the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. programs at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and the USC Department of Biological Sciences Ph.D. program are African Americans. There are a variety of reasons for this:

  • A lack of information about biomedical research careers
  • A lack of experience in laboratory work
  • The potential applicant’s perception that his/her educational qualifications (i.e. GRE scores and GPA) are not good enough for admission
  • Financial considerations: Many minority students feel the need to enter the workplace immediately after gaining a baccalaureate degree because of high levels of debt. Often they are unaware of the availability of graduate fellowships

To remedy the under-representation of minorities in scientist training programs, the NIH have created the Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program.
Apply Now
If you are interested in joining USC PREP, please fill out the application form linked at the top right of this page. If you have any problems with the electronic application, please put the requested information in an e-mail and send it to us at the addresses below.
In addition you will also need to send us:

  • Three letters of recommendation from people who know you academically (such as your professors)
  • A copy of your transcripts. We do not need originals with the initial application
  • A copy of your GRE score if you have taken this but it is not necessary to have taken the exam to apply to PREP
  • A personal statement stating why you think PREP will be advantageous to you; why you wish to pursue a career in biomedical sciences; and any experience that you have in biomedical research. We are particularly interested in research that you may have done away from your home institution such as in summer programs at NIH, research institutes or universities.

Eligibility to participate in a PREP
Because PREPs were created by NIH to increase the number of minority students entering doctoral programs in biomedical research, you must be an underrepresented minority to participate:
Underrepresented minorities include:

  • Blacks or African Americans
  • Hispanic Americans or Latinos
  • Native Americans (American Indians or Alaska Natives)
  • Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders
  • Individuals with disabilities, defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities

You must also be:

  • A citizen of the United States or a permanent resident of the United States

Participating School and Departments
Biomedical Departments across the USC campus in Columbia, South Carolina participate in USC PREP. These include:

  • All three basic science departments of the School of Medicine
    • Cell Biology and Anatomy
    • Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology
    • Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience
  • The Department of Biological Sciences
  • The Department of Chemistry (Biochemistry section)
  • The Department of Exercise Science (in the School of Public Health)
  • The Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Science (in the College of Pharmacy)

If you apply and receive an interview, we would like you name up to four professors whose research interests you and with whom you may like to work. You can find out more about the research in the various departments, which are linked to this page. In addition, many research laboratories and professors’ research pages are to be found from this list. Please note that newer faculty may not yet be on this list.
If you have any questions or need further information please contact Dr Richard Hunt (

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