To help address this imbalance, Merck joined with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) in 1995 to help increase the number of African-American undergraduates studying in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. The result was the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative.
To date, the partnership has given 627 scholarships and fellowships to promising undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral science students pursuing careers in biomedical research.
The program that began in 1995 with a ten-year, $20 million grant from the Merck Company Foundation and Merck Research Laboratories has become a 17-year commitment totaling about $45 million.
In addition to financial support for grant recipients, mentoring and networking are key components of the program.
Merck staff scientists mentor UNCF/Merck Fellows to help them expand their professional networks, enhance their research experiences and explore their career goals. The UNCF/Merck Fellows are encouraged to mentor and help prepare young students to study science in college.
"Merck's investment in these promising students and scholars is a significant commitment to building a pipeline of African-American students in biosciences. Developing the next generation of researchers, professors, and science and math teachers will also enable our nation to compete in the global economy," said Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D., UNCF president and CEO.
A new component of the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative is the awarding of a $500,000 grant to UNCF’s member institution Xavier University, in conjunction with the UNCF Institute for Capacity Building program. Over the next four years, Xavier University will use the grant and capacity-building program to increase the number of students graduating with STEM degrees and pursuing research careers in the biological and chemical sciences.
”The scientists and industry professionals I have met through the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative have become my own friends and mentors and have helped me grow in my career,” said Tshaka Cunningham, Ph.D., a biologist who received a Merck Fellowship to pursue new research directions in HIV biology at Rockefeller University. “I am excited to be a part of a program that has contributed so much to increasing the number of African-American scientists and engineers.”
Learn more about Merck’s commitment to science education and the UNCF.