In 2017, Howard University launched the Karsh STEM Scholars Program to encourage Black students to pursue a career in STEM research or teaching with the contingency of pursuing an M.D. or Ph.D. at an institution. 

The Historically Black College and University program offers full scholarships to its students and fosters an environment where students will receive mentorship and peer support, which is often an area Black students fail to receive from other institutions. According to a 2021 Wiley Report, surveying 2,000 young adults, 44 percent of them credited their pursuit in STEM to encouragement from their college.

Alumni Alexandria Adigun Breaks Barrier In STEM

Recently the program commenced 27 alumni, including Alexandria Adigun, who obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology with minors in both chemistry and psychology. An impressive feat considering a daunting statistic from a Pew Research Study revealed only seven percent of Black students earned a STEM bachelor’s degree as of 2018.

Adigun joined the cohort in 2017 and quickly set herself apart by becoming the first Black woman to fulfill a research internship at the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna which was no easy feat. The George High School Alumna however acknowledges her inquisitive nature and believes being a prominent figure within the program will open doors for other Black students to be involved.

“I really think my unique position helped people also get involved with STEM, asked the questions they’re too afraid to ask someone else and also propelled them. Not where I am, but maybe even farther than I’ll ever go,” Adigun revealed in a press statement.

Adigun Encourages Students To Pursue A Future In STEM

Adigun’s internship taught her the key to improving the disparities of minority involvement in STEM lies in students continuing to answer questions for future generations. During times of hardships where support may not be provided, she believes students reminding themselves of their purpose in STEM and finding enjoyment in their craft will bring them to the finish line.

Adigun will continue her study at The University of Pennsylvania this fall and earn a doctorate of philosophy. Although she has not defined her career path in medicine, she will study neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and will complete research on cell regeneration to treat the illness.