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School of Medicine Columbia

PREP Program

The Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) at USC seeks to increase the number of applicants to biomedical graduate programs from under-represented communities by offering the opportunity to work for a year in a biomedical research laboratory while preparing for graduate school in the biomedical sciences.

What is PREP?

Our PREP provides a year of post-baccalaureate training to minority or disadvantaged students who have indicated a desire to enter graduate school with the aim of obtaining a Ph.D. degree in the Biomedical Sciences.

Who Gets Admitted?

The University of South Carolina PREP, which is fully funded by the National Institutes of Health, is accepting applications. Each year, we plan to admit seven USC PREP scholars who will enter the program in the last week of June.

We welcome all qualified PREP applicants without discrimination including racial and ethnic minorities, socio-economically disadvantaged populations and individuals with disabilities.​ In the last five year funding period of USC PREP, 88% of PREP Scholars received offers from prestigious graduate schools. Last year, all of our Scholars went on to excellent graduate schools.

Once accepted into USC PREP, a Scholar will receive a stipend of $32,000 per year.

Why Our Program?

We have designed a program that will include:

  • Research experience in a biomedical research laboratory using the latest scientific equipment and methods
  • Mentoring by an experienced faculty member and other members of his/her research team
  • Seminar presentation by the PREP Scholar to enhance scientific communication skills
  • Presentation of work at national and local scientific meetings
  • Usually one biomedical graduate (or similar) course per semester for credit
  • Foundation courses including ethics, use of animals and radioactivity, paper writing and problem solving
  • Journal clubs to stimulate critical thinking about the published literature
  • Attendance at seminars presented by outside faculty

This program allows PREP Scholars to experience biomedical research and demonstrate their abilities as researchers. In addition, they will have the opportunity to show their ability to do well in graduate level coursework. We anticipate that the Scholars' laboratory research experience and graduate coursework will not only ensure their acceptance into a graduate program, but will also shorten the time needed to complete a Ph.D. by about a year.

Program Details

Because PREPs were created by NIH to increase the number of minority  or disadvantaged students entering doctoral programs in biomedical research, you must belong to an underrepresented group to participate:

Underrepresented groups include:

  • Blacks or African Americans

  • Hispanic Americans or Latinos

  • Native Americans (American Indians or Alaska Natives)

  • Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders

  • Individuals with disabilities, defined as those with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities 

  • Financially-disadvantaged persons who have grown up in a poor, often inner city, environment.

You must also be:

  • A citizen of the United States or a permanent resident of the United States

Biomedical Departments across the USC campus in Columbia, South Carolina participate in USC PREP. These include:

  • All three basic science departments of the School of Medicine:

    • Cell Biology and Anatomy

    • Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

    • Pharmacology, Physiology and Neuroscience

  • The Department of Biological Sciences

  • The Department of Chemistry (Biochemistry section)

  • The Department of Drug Discovery and Biomedical Science (in the College of Pharmacy)

If you apply and receive an interview, we would like you to name up to four professors whose research interests you and with whom you may like to work. You can find out more about the research in the various departments, which are linked to this page. In addition, many research laboratories and professors’ research pages are to be found from this list. Please note that newer faculty may not yet be on this list.

If you have any questions or need further information please contact Dr. Richard Hunt at

If you are interested in joining USC PREP, please fill out the application. If you have any problems with the electronic application, please put the requested information in an e-mail and send it to  

In addition you will also need to send us:

  • Three letters of recommendation from people who know you academically (such as your professors)

  • A copy of your transcripts. We do not need originals with the initial application

  • A copy of your GRE score if you have taken this but it is not necessary to have taken the exam to apply to PREP

  • A personal statement stating why you think PREP will be advantageous to you; why you wish to pursue a career in biomedical sciences; and any experience that you have in biomedical research. We are particularly interested in research that you may have done away from your home institution such as in summer programs at NIH, research institutes or universities.

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