Fueling Diversity in STEM Fields

Published in Hopkins Medicine - Spring/Summer 2021

Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg Philanthropies have announced the launch of a $150 million effort to directly address historic underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering and math fields, and to prepare a new, more diverse generation of researchers and scholars to assume leading roles in tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges.

The Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative at Johns Hopkins — named for the Black surgical laboratory supervisor best known for his contributions to a lifesaving cardiac surgical technique for “blue baby syndrome” in the 1940s — will create new pathways for students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions to pursue and earn PhDs in STEM fields.

The gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide permanent funding to add a sustained cohort of approximately 100 new positions for diverse PhD students in JHU’s more than 30 STEM programs, representing disciplines ranging from neuroscience to physics to engineering.

The initiative will engage in active outreach to applicants from HBCU and MSI institutions, a group that encompasses more than 450 four-year colleges and universities nationwide. Each scholar will receive up to six years of full tuition support, a stipend, health insurance and travel funding, along with significant mentorship, research and professional development opportunities. Initial pathway programs will begin this summer, with the first cohort of Vivien Thomas Scholars entering Johns Hopkins PhD programs in the fall of 2022.

“Capturing diverse talent in STEM is critical to maximizing the creativity, excellence, and innovation necessary to create the best science and to apply that science to improve the human condition for all,” says Damani Arnold Piggott, associate professor of medicine and the inaugural associate vice provost for graduate diversity and partnerships. “We believe there is a wealth of untapped talent out there, and that through sustained outreach and support, we can encourage more students from diverse backgrounds to seek PhDs in these fields and become the next generation of transformational leaders in STEM.”

More than $15 million in funding will be dedicated to strengthening pathways for talented undergraduates to pursue STEM PhDs at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere. Those efforts will begin with direct funding of programs at an initial cohort of six partner HBCUs and MSIs with an exceptional record of accomplishment in graduating students who advance to STEM PhD careers — Howard University; Morehouse College; Morgan State University; Prairie View A&M; Spelman College; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.