Xavier Professor Receives Grant to Launch Mobile Outreach for Laboratory Enrichment (MOLE)

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Contact Info: bwashi15@xula.edu

By Brhea Washington

Xavier professor of chemistry and BUILD mentor Mehnaaz Ali, Ph.D., has been granted funding for the Xavier University of Louisiana-Mobile Outreach for Laboratory Enrichment (XULA-MOLE) project through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program, sponsored by National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). 

XULA BUILD seeks to expand the growth of students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented  in STEM and biomedicine, exposing them to research opportunities, mentorships, and graduate programs. The implementation of the XULA-MOLE project will also strive to support underrepresented students who are in STEM and biomedical fields, with a focus on New Orleans high schoolers. XULA-MOLE will provide learning experiences to participating New Orleans high schools with student populations made up of over 80% Black/African American students. 

As a XULA BUILD mentor, Ali expresses how initiatives such as XULA-MOLE and XULA BUILD are fundamental to increasing diversity in the biomedical research workforce. 

“XULA-MOLE’s student undergraduate training, which contributes to the high school science curriculum through designing hands-on laboratory content, lends directly to XULA BUILD initiatives as well. BUILD emphasizes student development through innovative STEM courses that engage a diverse body of students in activities that promote a STEM mindset,” Ali said. 

An integral component of XULA-MOLE and XULA BUILD has been mentorship, which grants students the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge by undergoing mentorship training. 

Xavier students are at the heart of the implementation of “near-peer mentoring” in XULA-MOLE, as participants work in teams to design questions and experiments for high schoolers to explore various topics. Xavier students of XULA-MOLE are also trained to serve as effective mentors via the Mentee-to-Mentor (M2M) Program, developed for the XULA BUILD initiative. 

Like XULA-MOLE, XULA BUILD’s mentorship caters to increasing inclusivity in the biomedical research workforce by emphasizing supportive relationships. Faculty advising and mentoring, in particular, can be a mechanism to break barriers faced by African Americans and other minorities entering careers in biomedical research. 

XULA-MOLE and XULA BUILD work towards not only sparking student interest in scientific fields but making a global impact through increasing diversity. 

Initiatives such as XULA-MOLE and XULA BUILD have been essential in striving to eliminate systemic confines that disproportionately impact the achievements and success of people from underrepresented groups.

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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