The Bridge-to-the-Doctorate Program, an initiative within the LSAMP Program, began in August of 2003, with ten former undergraduate PR-LSAMP students being awarded fellowships for their first two years of graduate studies at UPR-Rio Piedras. Since then, 96 additional fellowships have been awarded, for a total of 106 Fellows.
The two institutional sites that have participated in the BD Program are UPR-Rio Piedras and UPR-Mayaguez, the island's two major higher educations institutions with graduate programs in STEM fields. The breakdown of Fellows by STEM discipline is: Chemistry: 42; Biology 28; Engineering 12; Physics 12; Marine Science 3; Environmental Science 1; Mathematics 5; Computer Science1 and Agricultural Science 1.
Each Fellow receives a $30,000 fellowship per year, for their first two years of graduate studies. These funds are distributed as follows: $1,500 per month plus three bonuses of $4,000 each for academic progress -one in December, one in May, and one in July. The BD Program also covers the Fellows' tuition and institutional fees; the health plan, and provides funds for travel and educational materials.
A Support Program includes a series of workshops, seminars, field trips, and the Annual Transdisciplinary Research Conference to enhance the Fellows' academic preparation. At least five of these activities are joint activities with Fellows from the following Cohort, to exchange experiences and establish networking collaborations, including presenting their research projects at the annual Puerto Rico Interdisciplinary Scientific Meeting and the annual Puerto Rico EPSCoR Meeting. All Fellows must serve as mentors to an undergraduate PR-LSAMP student, and must visit at least one high school each year to serve as role models to high school students, and share with them their academic experiences and career plans. Schools from the GK-12 Program are included in these visits. BD Fellows also participate as presenters in Nanodays, an IFN National outreach event that brings nanoscience and technology to the general public. Former Fellows now serve as resources in PR-LSAMP workshops.
Currently PR-LSAMP has twenty-four BDP fellows, twenty science majors and two engineering majors. Of the first cohort of ten students (August 2003), four fellows have already obtained a Ph.D. while the rest are pursuing graduate studies at UPR-Rio Piedras. These students are: Azlin Biaggi, Agustin Diaz, Daniel Caballero and Betzaida Castillo. Also, one student from Cohort III, Francisco Solá, obtained his Ph.D. in 2009.
In addition to the fellowship, BDP fellows participate in the Role Model Seminar Series and a Travel to Scientific Meeting Program designed specifically for them. Fellows also serve as mentors for undergraduate STEM students and visit high schools as part of the PR-LSAMP Pre-College to College Bridging Program where they reserve as role models and encourage students to pursue careers in science and engineering.