Minnesota Inclusive Neuroscience Development Scholars (MINDS) Program

Post-Baccalaureate Research Program for Underrepresented Minorities in Pursuit of a Career in Neuroscience

Meet Our Current Scholars MINDs Alumni MINDs Financial Partners

Mission: The mission of the MINDS program is to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field of neuroscience starting at the early career stage. We believe that one point of attrition for individuals from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds is immediately after college graduation. The goal of the MINDS program is to provide financial support for college graduates to pursue up to 2 years of independent research in a neuroscience laboratory at the University of Minnesota prior to graduate school. The goal of the program is to provide laboratory and research experience that encourages intellectual as well as technical growth, helps build confidence in laboratory settings and gives opportunities for the students to obtain “deliverables” in the form of intramural and extramural posters and publications. Graduate school entry has become increasingly competitive and graduate schools’ admissions committees emphasize research experience. We believe this emphasis leads to a substantial roadblock for some individuals. Our goal is to help individuals from underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds submit competitive graduate school applications at a nationwide level by increasing access to meaningful laboratory research experiences. We fully expect that successful MIND scholars would be competitive for the UMN Graduate Program in Neuroscience as well as other programs across the country. Finally, the goal of this program is to service our local community by uplifting individuals within the state of Minnesota.

Who is Eligible: Participants must have recently obtained or will obtain a B.A. or B.S. or equivalent from a 4-year college or university by the start of the program. We are focused on recruiting individuals from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds, thus preference will be given to underrepresented minorities. This includes, but is not limited to: Blacks or African-Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, American Indians or Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islander, first generation college graduates, and recipients of federal funding (either Pell grant or McNair Scholarship). Individuals must have the intention to apply to either graduate or medical school, and preference will be given to individuals interested in obtaining a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. Finally, preference may be given to individuals who are either permanent residents of Minnesota or have attended a 4-year college or university in the state of Minnesota. We ask that applicants provide us with information on how your participation in this program will promote diversity, equity and inclusion within the neuroscience field.

Program Features:

  • Research: The MINDS program will provide a full stipend of $35,000 to awardees in Year 1. MINDS will also provide at least six calendar months of stipend funding in Year 2. Faculty mentors must commit to paying fringe benefits in all years, and the remaining six calendar months of stipend in Year 2. In addition, scholars will be awarded a $1500 discretionary fund per year that may be used for travel, computer or moving expenses.

The expectation is that MIND scholars will spend the vast majority of their time conducting primary research in a neuroscience laboratory at the University of Minnesota. In coordination with their faculty mentor, scholars must conduct “independent” research projects. Note, this project may be a part of a larger research project being done in the lab. Moreover, we expect that the individual will receive supervision and guidance from other individuals in the laboratory in addition to the PI. Scholars are expected to present a poster at the annual Neuroscience Post-Baccalaureate Poster Session. Scholars are also highly encouraged to present a poster at an extramural event.

Career Development: MIND scholars are expected to attend neuroscience colloquiums and seminars. They are also expected to attend Neuroscience Department wide Post-Bac Program events. Career development programming will be provided to MIND scholars including one-on-one assistance in a) crafting competitive CVs and Research Statements b) interviewing c) choosing where to apply d) navigating your first year in graduate school e) what is a career in neuroscience? f) how to talk to your non-science family about your career g) fiscal literacy in graduate school and beyond.

In addition to the faculty mentor, MIND scholars will be provided with a “near-peer” mentor in the form of a GPN graduate student or post-doctoral fellow. In addition, peer-to-peer mentorship will be encouraged throughout the career development programming.

Program Events:  All post-baccalaureates researchers or equivalent (CS Researcher 1 and 2) are invited to attend several events sponsored by the MINDS program and Department of Neuroscience:

  • Annual Welcome Gathering
  • Monthly Meet-Ups with other Neuroscience Post-Bacs or equivalent
  • Neuroscience Seminars and Colloquium
  • Annual Neuroscience Career Panel
  • Annual Post-Bac Poster Session (families who are based locally are invited to attend)

Program Duration: Applicants will be awarded a $35,000 stipend and career development programming for one year. Pending adequate progress, scholars will be awarded a second year of funding in which the MINDS program will cover 50% of the stipend and the faculty mentor will cover the remaining stipend and fringe benefits This will be awarded pending assessment of research progress and commitment from the faculty mentor. The faculty mentor must commit to covering any remaining amount in order to maintain the awardee at his/her/their current level of funding and benefits.

Commitment from Faculty Mentor:

For Students: Students should designate faculty of interest from a list of approved MINDS faculty mentors. The MINDS program committee will facilitate pairings between scholar and faculty mentor. Following acceptance into the MINDS program, students and their faculty mentor must craft a one-page project outline and submit it to the program committee for approval.

For Faculty Mentors: Scholars must receive a gross income of $35,000. Thus, faculty mentors are expected to cover the cost of MIND scholars’ fringe benefits. In addition, we must receive a letter of commitment from the faculty mentor guaranteeing that they understand and are committed to providing a research experience to the awardee that furthers the individual’s intellectual and technical growth. While it is expected that MIND scholars will participate in some lab maintenance, it is not acceptable to have this be the main function of the MIND scholars.

Faculty participation: Faculty must apply to be on the list of MINDS faculty mentors. Faculty must provide a list of past and current post-bac (or equivalent – Researcher 1&2) students as well as past and current graduate students. Faculty must also provide a statement indicating their financial commitment to the student in terms of fringe benefits, stipend in year 2, and scientific resources that are required for the project. Faculty with eligible NIH grants are strongly encouraged apply for NIH diversity supplement to help support the MIND scholar.

Current MINDs Scholars

Christie Alexandre

Christie L. Alexandre:

Christie L. Alexandre obtained her bachelor of Sciences at the University of the Ozarks in May 2021. She majored in Biology and minored in Chemistry, Philosophy, and Business Administration. Having discovered a particular interest in Neurosciences during her last year of college, she decided to join the MINDS post-baccalaureate program at the University of Minnesota. Through this program, she was hired as a psychometrist in the Vinogradov lab. Christie would like to later obtain her Ph.D. in Clinical Neuropsychology.

 John Brent

John Brent IV: 

John is a first generation student from Knox College, where he graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Neuroscience with minors in Biochemistry and Psychology in June 2022. During his undergraduate years, John was a researcher in the Knox Cognitive and Aging Lab, as well as in the Hoffmann Lab researching cognitive and experimental psychology, respectively. Additionally, John served as a teaching assistant for courses in Neuroscience, Chemistry, and Biology. John was a member of Order of Omega, Pre-Health Club, Varsity football, as well as Beta Theta Pi Fraternity where he served as President his senior year. Currently, he is a full-time researcher in Kevin D. Wickman’s laboratory. John is interested in Neuropharmacology, pain modulation, and opiate misuse. He plans to apply to graduate and professional schools in the future.

Osmar Del Rio

Osmar Del Rio:

Osmar graduated from Macalester College with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and minors in Data Science and Spanish. Throughout his undergraduate career, he conducted neuropharmacology research at Rosalind Franklin University in the Rosenkranz lab as well as immunology research at Macalester College in the Chatterjea lab. Currently, he is using latent variable modeling to quantify emergent population dynamics in the visual cortex of awake mice. Osmar’s long term goal is to model dynamical systems using machine learning algorithms. He hopes to develop his statistical and computational skills here at MINDS and pursue a PhD in statistics with a concentration in data science or machine learning. His other interests include neuroimmunology, science communication, and teaching.

 Michaelle DiMaggio-Potter


Michaelle DiMaggio-Potter:

Michaelle DiMaggio-Potter is a MINDS Scholar in the Research in Adolescent Depression Lab (RAD Lab). She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University, where she researched in Columbia’s Developmental Affective Neuroscience Lab (DAN Lab). As an undergraduate, she also performed in plays, musicals, and ballroom competitions. She is interested in maladaptive cognition and behavior, specifically emotional dysregulation and self-harm, and desires to improve treatment methods for adolescents who suffer from mood and personality disorders.


Reggie Oblitey 

Reginald (Reggie) Oblitey: 

Reginald is an international student and a first year minds scholar. He graduated from Augsburg University with a major in Biology. Currently he is a researcher with Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute under the MINDS program. His goal is to attend medical school and become a neurosurgeon

 Fernando Aguilar Ortega

Fernando Aguilar Ortega:

Fernando graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Biology with a Neuroscience concentration from St. Olaf College. His research goal is to understand the neuroscience of neuropsychiatric disorders and explore the complex brain circuitry. He is currently working on understanding the anatomical connectivity of the posteromedial cortex in humans using non-human primates at the Heilbronner Lab.

Dante Rogers

Dante Rogers:

Dante Rogers obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with minors in both Neuroscience and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. His current topic of interest involves neurocognitive and behavioral development in children with complex medical conditions, specifically ALD.

 Angelica Velosa

Angelica Velosa: 

As a recent graduate from the New College of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biological Psychology and Neuroscience, Angelica Velosa has been able to refine her research interests and develop a passion for the neuroscience of learning and memory. She also has a strong passion in her heart for applying her understanding of neuroscience to education. Angelica decided to join the MINDS post-baccalaureate program due to its research - through faculty and its commitment to diversity. She is currently working as a research technician at the Grissom lab. Here she is hoping to grow experimental design skills and science communication skills to pursue a neuroscience PhD.


MINDs Alumni

 Olalekan “Lukman” Ganiyu

Olalekan “Lukman” Ganiyu:

Lukman received a bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy in Nigeria before immigrating to the United States in 1996 and completed a master’s degree and a clinical doctorate in physical therapy in the United States.  He has been a physical therapist for about 30 years with an orthopaedic rehab focus. He was a core faculty member at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences and taught in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Lukman joined MINDS from 2021-2022, and is now pursuing his PhD in Physical Therapy at Nova Southeastern University.

 Parsa Najmaie

Parsa Taheri:

Parsa Taheri graduated with her bachelor's degree in Psychology from Barnard College of Columbia University in 2019, and then gained experience as a research assistant in psychology labs before joining MINDS from 2021-2022. Her research interests include the neural and socio-emotional correlates of resilience from early life stress in vulnerable youth. Parsa is now pursuing her PhD in Developmental, Cognitive, & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Houston.