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Five College of Engineering Graduate Students Named Bridge to Doctorate Fellows

September 08, 2020

The Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (KY-WV LSAMP), spearheaded by UK, is responsible for the program.

By Jenny Wells-Hosley


The Kentucky-West Virginia Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (KY-WV LSAMP), spearheaded by the University of Kentucky, has named nine of its first cohort of Bridge to the Doctorate (BD) fellows. The BD program will support a total of 12 graduate students from underrepresented populations who are pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines at UK.

Each fellow will receive a $32,000 per year stipend as well as support for cost of education for two years through the grant. Fellows will receive coaching, academic and community support, professional development, and access to opportunities for research, writing and presentation.

The fellowships are supported by a $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) award KY-WV LSAMP received this summer. KY-WV LSAMP is a consortium of 10 colleges and universities working together to broaden participation and increase the quality and quantity of underrepresented students in STEM.

FIve of the nine fellows are in the UK College of Engineering, including:

  • Edwina Barnett, a graduate of West Virginia State University, who is pursuing a master's degree in biomedical engineering at UK. Barnett’s career goals are to hold an administrative/leadership position in a government agency such as the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • Alyssa Donawa, a graduate of San Diego State University, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in computer science at UK. Donawa’s research focus intersects UI/UX design and gamification strategies for attracting and retaining users in medical mobile applications. She builds iOS applications that typically serve sparse and intermittently connected networks with low densities of users. The mobile applications that she is helping to design will be used to gather results in a delay tolerant opportunistic network and allow patients and medical staff to communicate when internet is limited or non-existent.
  • Xava Grooms, a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in computer science at UK. Grooms’ research focuses on leveraging delay tolerant networks and opportunistic wireless communications to facilitate secure and efficient data transfer in multiple unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems to mitigate wireless connectivity issues during natural disasters. She aspires to achieve a lifelong career helping others as a tenure-track faculty member at a Research 1 institution.
  • Julia Parker, a graduate of UK, who is pursuing a master’s degree in biosystems engineering at UK. Parker’s research focuses on the development of methods for the depolymerization of lignin, this being one of the main constituents of biomass. In so doing, her work aims to convert this largely waste material into a sustainable source of chemicals and fuels, thereby significantly improving the economics of biorefineries.
  • JaMaya Wilson, a graduate of Dillard University, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in materials science and engineering at UK. Wilson plans to create a nonprofit that exposes high school students in underrepresented communities to the possibilities within the STEM field. Her goal is to give students a space to feel confident in their skills through tutoring, teaching and mentorship.

"We are excited to support these talented students," said Fara Willaims, director of KY-WV LSAMP. "They are becoming a cohesive cohort and helping us to learn and develop programming that will increase recruitment and retention of URM students in STEM graduate programs now and in the future."

Since receiving renewed funding in 2018, KY-WV LSAMP has grown from 280 to 378 student participants, with over 50% of its graduating students continuing their education in graduate programs.

“LSAMP recognizes the University of Kentucky as a regional leader in providing opportunities for underrepresented students in STEM fields,” said UK Provost David Blackwell, who serves as principal investigator for the grant. “The Bridge to the Doctorate program underscores our commitment to building a stronger workforce and creating a brighter future for our state and region.”

Three more graduate students will be selected for this cohort of fellows. Applications will be accepted until all positions are filled. For information about KY-WV LSAMP or the Bridge to the Doctorate Fellowship, visit www.uky.edu/KYWV-LSAMP and/or contact Fara Williams at 859-218-6326 or fara.williams@uky.edu.

KY-WV LSAMP is a unit based in UK's Office for Institutional Diversity. In addition to UK, the alliance includes Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Centre College, Jefferson Community and Technical College, Kentucky State University, Marshall University, University of Louisville, West Virginia State University, West Virginia University and Western Kentucky University.

Named in honor of the former Ohio congressman, the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program is an alliance-based program designed to assist universities and colleges in diversifying the nation's STEM workforce by increasing the number of STEM baccalaureate and graduate degrees awarded to populations historically underrepresented. Overall, the NSF program provides funding to alliances that implement comprehensive, evidence-based, innovative and sustained strategies that ultimately result in the graduation of well-prepared, highly qualified students from underrepresented minority groups who pursue graduate studies or careers in STEM.