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Press Release

Jonathan Potts

For immediate release:
August 1, 2003

Carnegie Mellon Gets Grant To Train Minorities In Biostatistical Research

PITTSBURGH—The Department of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University has received a two-year, $50,000 grant from the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation to fund its Summer Undergraduate Research Internship Program, which brings undergraduate minority students to Carnegie Mellon to learn how to conduct biostatistical research.

The summer program is part of a partnership with Morehouse College in Atlanta. Students are recruited from historically black universities and colleges, and they spend the first two weeks of the program undergoing intensive training in biostatistics and epidemiology at Morehouse. At Carnegie Mellon, they spend another two weeks learning research methods and the final six weeks engaged in a research project of their choosing. This year's research projects include a study of disparities in the treatment of mental disorders between blacks and whites; an analysis of the relationship between exercise, diet, smoking and weight on people 12 and older; and an analysis of the rates of kidney dysfunction in blacks and whites. The students will present the results of their research from 10 a.m. to noon, Friday, Aug. 8, in the Baker Hall student lounge at Carnegie Mellon.

The Department of Statistics launched the summer program in 2001 because of its concern about the scarcity of minorities in statistics, biostatistics and epidemiology. According to Science magazine, while African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians comprise 23% of the U.S. population, they make up only 4.5% of those holding scientific doctorates.

For African Americans, this shortage could have grave consequences. Medical problems faced by minorities may go overlooked by researchers, or they may unknowingly practice cultural biases that skew the results of their work.

"If people like us aren't doing research, and people like us aren't being heard, then people like us will continue to suffer," said Ranita Fortenberry, a program participant who graduated this spring from Spelman College in Atlanta with a degree in psychology. She is considering pursuing a graduate degree in biostatistics at the highly regarded Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, also in Atlanta.

The Department of Statistics is one of eight departments in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the second-largest academic unit at Carnegie Mellon. The college emphasizes interdisciplinary study in a technologically rich environment, with an open and forward-thinking stance toward the arts and sciences.


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