Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative

The Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative provides awards to undergraduate institutions across the country to implement and study innovative approaches to engaging and retaining students from diverse backgrounds in biomedical research.  In 2014, the National Institute of Health (NIH) granted 10 five-year BUILD (Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity) awards.  The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) was one of the 10 core institutions to receive the award which led to the formation of the Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity: Southwest Consortium of Health-Oriented Education Leaders and Research Scholars (BUILDing Scholars) program.

The BUILDing Scholars program is designed to include a consortium of pipeline and research partners.  Pipeline partners and UTEP work together to implement and co-develop programs that will enable students to master the coursework necessary to enter research careers as well as participating in mentoring activities.  Research partners are intended to expand training, research and mentorship opportunities available to participating students, in addition to engaging faculty at UTEP through collaborations and/or training opportunities.  The BUILDing Scholars are students who have finished their freshman, sophomore or junior year.

The Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) at the University of Connecticut has a record of success in creating pipeline programs and research experiences in biomedical sciences for underrepresented minority students as indicated by the Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP) and the M1 Mentorship Program.  As a result, UTEP invited UConn to be a research partner on their BUILD award.  Under the UTEP BUILD award, there are 13 Research partners, with UConn being the only academic institution from the northeast.

As a BUILDing Scholar, each student, through the Chronus online mentoring platform, was matched with faculty from UConn or UConn Health who expressed an interest in participating as a BUILD mentor. Once matched, mentors and students engage in conversation related to their summer research project and interests. Housing and travel are covered under the BUILD award for each student, as well as a monthly BUILD stipend for the summer.  In addition, the BUILD mentor receives funding for research supplies needed in order for their student to complete their summer project.

In addition to their summer research project, the 2016 BUILDing Scholars attended weekly CICATS Summer Seminar Series lectures on topics such as research ethics and translational research, received additional personalized mentorship by M1 Mentors, and had the opportunity to present a poster of their research at the Cell and Genome Science Building at UConn Health.

Program Leadership:

Dr. Cato Laurencin

Dr. Cato Laurencin
Primary Investigator
Chief Executive Officer, CICATS

Dr. Syam Nukavarapu M1 Mentor

Dr. Syam Nukavarapu
Co-Primary Investigator
Assistant Professor, UConn Health
M1 Mentor, CICATS

Trisha Pitter

Trisha Pitter
UConn BUILD Administrative Coordinator
Business Services Manager, CICATS

2017 Cohort:

BUILD Scholar Tania Miramontes

Tania Miramontes
UConn Lab Mentor:
Dr. David Martinelli

BUILD Scholar - Aiyana Ponce

Aiyana Ponce
UConn Lab Mentor:
Dr. Leslie Caromile

BUILD Scholar Joshua Preciado

Joshua Preciado-Pina
UConn Lab Mentor:
Dr. David Steffens

BUILD Scholar - Dina Torres

Dina Torres
UConn Lab Mentor:
Dr. Caroline Dealy

BUILD Scholar - Gerardo Zavala

Gerardo Zavala
UConn Lab Mentor:
Dr. Kurutihalli Vishwanatha

2016 Cohort:

Bianca Montano

Bianca Montano
UConn Lab Mentor: Dr. Cato Laurencin
Research Project: Biocompatibility Evaluation of Electrospun Gelatin Nanofiber Scaffolds in Calvarial Defect Mouse Model

Luis Reza

Luis Reza
UConn Lab Mentor: Dr. Caroline Dealy
Research Project: Impaired Regenerative Response to Digit Tip Amputation in Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR)-Deficient Mice