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University of Missouri

Prep School

MU PREP receives grant to increase diversity in biomedical sciences.

Patricka Williams-Simon

MU PREP scholar Patricka Williams‐Simon researches molecular genetics and gene therapy in the Bond Life Sciences Center. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

Patricka Williams‐Simon grew up in Grenada, where going into business was the only surefire way to get a good job. But ever since constructing a volcano for an elementary school science project, she’s wanted to be a scientist. At 19, she moved to New York to study biology at Medgar Evers College, and in 2013, she moved to Columbia to become a scholar in the MU Post‐baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP), which recently received a $1.1 million training grant to renew the program for four more years.

Since 2003, MU’s PREP has provided research and educational experiences to 28 minority students hoping to be accepted into competitive doctoral programs in a biomedical field. One of the primary reasons Williams‐Simon chose MU’s PREP is because 25 of the former scholars enrolled directly in a graduate or professional program. 

She is researching the molecular genetics of pediatric neurodegenerative diseases in the lab of veterinary pathobiology Professor Christian Lorson, PhD ’97. Her projects involve gene therapy and drug development for diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy. She also receives résumé critiques, participates in mock interviews, prepares elevator talks about her research and discusses literature in the field.

The program treats you as if you were already a graduate student,” Williams‐Simon says. “Because of this preparation, I feel confident that I will end up in graduate school, and not just any graduate school but the one of my choice.”