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Internship Program Offers International Research Opportunities to Minority Students and Faculty

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

The Minority International Research Training Program will offer research opportunities ranging from basic laboratory studies to applied and public health research at seven host institutions in Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The program is open to minority students and faculty members through a co-operative venture between Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.

Dr. John Hamilton, the co-director, said the goals of the program, which is funded by the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health, reflects the university's on going efforts at internationalization and interest in providing useful opportunities to a diverse student body and faculty.

Hamilton, chief of the division of infectious diseases and international health at Duke University Medical Center, said the internships will encourage minority students to pursue careers in the biological sciences, expand their cultural perspectives, prepare them for work in a global environment and establish links between U.S. scientists and colleagues abroad.

Program participants are encouraged to select a host nation to which they feel a special attachment, will work in close conjunction with mentors at their internship sites.

"There's desire in every academic field to attract the most promising and talented students and faculty," Hamilton said. "At Duke and at the other participating universities, we've noticed there is a lesser proportion of minorities in the sciences than one would expect there to be talented people. We see this as part of an effort to recruit more minority undergraduates and help them pursue careers in scientific disciplines. For graduate students and faculty who are already engaged in research, this would be a new opportunity to help them excel in their fields."

He said the program will help strengthen links between the Triangle's university community and centers of biomedical and behavioral research abroad as well as give interns research opportunities and an international perspective. Faculty at Duke, UNC, and NCSU previously have participated in joint projects at the host institutions, including the Federal University of Espirito Santo in Vitoria, Brazil, where a mycobacterial reference laboratory is operated with support from Duke University; and the University of San Juan in San Juan, Costa Rica, where Duke visiting professor Dr. Maria Zaldivar will serve as the foreign mentor in collaboration with Dr. Kenneth Glander, professor of biological anthropology at Duke.

Faculty from Duke's division of infectious diseases and international health have previously worked on public health projects at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Moshi, Tanzania, another laboratory site. Both UNC and NCSU have, likewise, previously engaged in extensive biomedical and behavioral research at other selected sites for this program.

Other institutions participating in the program are Javeriana University in Bogota, Colombia; Hacienda La Pacifica, a private primate research center in Guanacaste, Costa Rica; the B. Johan National Institute of Public Health, in Budapest, Hungary; the Institutes of Preventive Medicine and Experimental Pharmacology, in Bratislava, the Slovak Republic; and the University of Ghana in Legon, Ghana.

Fields of study open to selected candidates include but are not limited to bacteriology, molecular and cell biology, biochemistry, epidemiology, bacteriology, bio-statistics, genetics, health behavior and education, nutrition, maternal and child health, zoology, anthropology and ecology.

Hamilton said the internships offered in Latin America and Africa will present participants with extremely challenging public health problems, ranging from the AIDS epidemic of east Africa to acute respiratory infections and other diseases threatening the lives of children in some of Latin America's poorest communities. The sites in eastern Europe will offer projects related to the health effects of the unique environmental problems found in the emerging democracies.

Each participant will work with a faculty mentor at Duke, UNC, or NCSU and a mentor at their host institution abroad. Dr. Rupa Redding-Lallinger, assistant professor of pediatric hematology-oncology at UNC and assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke, is co-director of the program with Hamilton. Brenda Alston-Mills is the faculty adviser at NCSU.

Hamilton said that although the program has not formally started accepting applications, his office has already received a number of calls about the positions. "Judging from the calls we've had, interest at Duke appears to be strong," he said.

Internship appointments for undergraduates range from 10 to 14 weeks; for pre-doctoral students and faculty, appointments can be for as long as 12 months. Financial support is available for stipends, training, travel, other related expenses and for foreign living expenses. Minority candidates from Duke, UNC and NCSU have priority for acceptance.

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