FAMU PRIME

A PRIME Collaboration

The PRIME summer program is extending beyond the Coral Gables campus with an inaugural collaboration with Florida A&M University. (Photo Credit: TJ Lievonen/UM News)
By Deserae E. del Campo

The PRIME summer program is extending beyond the Coral Gables campus with an inaugural collaboration with Florida A&M University. (Photo Credit: TJ Lievonen/UM News)

A PRIME Collaboration

By Deserae E. del Campo
UM and FAMU link up to provide research opportunities for three visiting scholars

PRIME—the Psychology Research Initiative Mentorship Experience Program—was started by the Psychology Department in 1995 with funding provided by NIH and the American Psychological Association, and through the years it has succeeded in its mission to introduce cutting-edge research opportunities to University of Miami undergraduates.

Now the summer program is extending beyond the Coral Gables campus with an inaugural collaboration with Florida A&M University (FAMU). The FAMU-UM collaboration began after a conversation between Department of Psychology Chair Philip McCabe and former UM football star Raymond Bellamy, who was the first African American athlete given a scholarship to UM back in the late 1960s. Bellamy is currently a psychology and social work advisor for FAMU’s College of Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities.

“Ray Bellamy has a deep affection for UM, and he wanted to find a way for FAMU students to share in what UM has to offer as a top research institution,” says McCabe. “He put me in contact with the Chair of FAMU’s Psychology Department, Gwendolyn Singleton, and we were able to bring this terrific collaboration to fruition. Hopefully, the PRIME program will provide these students with experience and skills that will help them with their future scientific careers.”

Brandi Burton, a graduate student in Community Psychology at Florida A&M University, is conducting research at Psychology’s Intensive Behavioral Intervention Services (IBIS) Clinic, which provides behavioral interventions for children living with disabilities.

“This experience has allowed me to meet some amazing people,” says Burton. “The faculty and staff have been helpful throughout my time here and has made this experience more pleasant. I enjoy that in this field of work it allows you to assess cognitive skills and different types of behavior.

Promoting research skills for undergraduate students now, that will make them more competitive for graduate school in the future, is the key to PRIME’s mission, which assists and introduces research and lab experiences to undergraduates as they work full-time in a mentor’s lab.

“The spirit of the program was designed to identify our brightest and most impressive undergraduates and to involve them in an intensive research internship by linking them with a mentor who will guide them through their research project over a period of 10 weeks,” says Kiara Timpano, associate professor and assistant chair of Academic Service and Research at UM. “With the FAMU-UM collaboration, the goal is to promote diversity in the lab while also preparing students for future careers in research and science.”

“I chose this academic field because I noticed there was a need for more African-American representation in STEM research,” says FAMU graduate student Broquelynn Shepard, who is working with Professor Jill Ehrenreich-May and Associate Professor Amanda Jensen-Doss in the CAMAT and COMET labs to evaluate of evidence-based therapy protocols for children and adolescents with anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders. “I have gained substantial experience and skills throughout the program like writing syntax, coding, and transcribing qualitative research,” she adds.  

Kiana Reaves, an undergraduate student at FAMU with a major in Psychology, says that working with the faculty has been a phenomenal experience.

“Through my PRIME scholarship, I am conducting research to explore cognitive processing and emotional responsivity in people living with HIV. What fascinates me the most is the variety of research approaches in psychology,” she adds. “The fact that there are so many different things that play a role in the psychological well-being of a person, and that there is so much information, research, and questions still left unanswered in the field amazes me.”

To make this collaboration with FAMU possible, the Department of Psychology is funding two out of the three scholarships, while the Department’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) program is sponsoring the third scholar.