Young Innovative Investigator Program


The Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP) is a program of the Connecticut Convergence Institute which aims to develop the next generation of innovative scientists by providing academic training to individuals dedicated to pursuing careers as scientists and scholars in biological and biomedical science. The program is specifically focused on recruiting underrepresented students to contribute towards developing a sustainable pipeline to increase diversity among the pool of academic scientists. YIIP provides tools for scholars to conduct research, succeed in an academic environment, and become competitive candidates for medical school or graduate school. YIIP Scholars will acquire the expertise necessary to obtain a Ph.D., M.D./Ph.D., or M.D.


YIIP is a one to two year full-time program for college graduates comprised of graduate level coursework and supervised research in biomedical laboratories on the UConn Health campus. This is not a post-baccalaureate program, but individualized mentorship, academic support, and career guidance are all provided. YIIP Scholars are employed as Graduate Assistants who earn a stipend and also qualify for health insurance coverage. In addition, the tuition expense and fees associated with required graduate level courses are waived. Upon successful completion of year one, scholars obtain a Graduate Certificate of Research Experience in Biomedical Science. In year two, scholars who meet the academic qualifications and successfully complete their first year may have the opportunity to pursue a Master of Science in Biomedical Science.


The selection committee is committed to the principle of equity and seeks a diverse group of candidates including individuals from underrepresented groups. Consideration will be given to those applicants traditionally underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral and social sciences.

All applicants must:

  • Have completed a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university with a minimum of an overall 3.0 GPA.
  • Demonstrate high motivation and potential to become a basic scientist with a goal of attaining a Ph.D., M.D.-Ph.D., or M.D.
  • Meet all eligibility criteria and have a high probability of fulfilling the social and educational goals of this program.
  • Be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States.

Application Process and Requirements (Submission Deadline: April 12, 2021)

Applicants to the Young Innovative Investigator Program must APPLY ONLINE to the UConn Graduate School.

Graduate School instructions link here

Detailed Guide on Application Process PDF here

Step-by Step Online Application Instructions


To which type of program are you applying?

Graduate Certificate


Levels of Study: Certificate

Academic Areas: Natural Sciences

Program: Biomedical Science Research Experience Grad Certificate

Campus: Farmington

Entry Term: Fall 2021

NOTE: Disregard message that deadline for applying has passed.


  • First choice for faculty advisor: Barbara Kream
  • Second choice: leave blank


  1. Graduate GPA criteria: A minimum grade-point average of 3.0 or better for all coursework.
  1. Transcripts- Degree equivalent with a U.S. Four-year Bachelor’s Degree. Please add an institution for all schools/courses you have attended after high school, and upload a copy of unofficial
    • transcript for each institution you list. If you have not yet completed your degree, please upload your most up-to-date unofficial transcript.
    • Please do not send official transcripts at the time of application submission. Official transcripts are required ONLY after an offer of admission is accepted. Official UConn transcripts are NOT required.
    1. Test Scores
    • Please indicate the standardized tests you have taken and the date on which you took them. You are not required to submit your self-reported scores.We receive official test scores directly from the testing companies so please make sure to use the correct code when requesting electronic score reports.  Once they are received your status page will be automatically updated to show we have officially received your scores.
    • (GRE and/or MCAT exams are not required– indicate ONLY if already taken).


    • Indicate only last three years of employment.


    1. Resume or Curriculum Vitae
    2. Personal Statement: Describe applicant’s background, talents, motivations and other factors that have shaped career goals in the field of science and interest or emphasis in regeneration. (Not to exceed one page, single spaced, 12-point font, 1 inch margins, no attachments)
    3. Research Experience Essay/Research Writing Sample: Write a one-page essay citing applicant’s previous biological and/or biomedical research experience or exposure, interest in pursuing career as scientist and/or scholar in the field of regeneration, and statement of how this program will assist in achievement of career goals. (Not to exceed one page, single spaced, 12-point font, 1 inch margins, no attachments).
    4. Five Year Future Plan Essay/Statement of Interest and Professional Goals: Write a one-page essay containing a five-year future plan outlining the applicant’s academic pursuits, career goals, and detailed plan to reach stated career goals. (Not to exceed one page, single spaced, 12-point font, 1 inch margins, no attachments).


    All applicants are required to complete a Residence Affidavit with the application for admission. A student's residence will be determined on the basis of the information supplied.


Provide two letters of recommendation. At least on letter of recommendation must be from a science instructor. Completed applications can be submitted online prior to the receipt of any letters of recommendation.

  • Your recommenders will only be contacted when you select to “Send to Recommender”.
  • You will be able to “Send to Recommender” again after application submission.
  • It is possible to import a letter of recommendation from another UConn graduate application.


YIIP applicants may qualify for an application fee waiver. IMPORTANT: Once you begin your online application, you must email Your email must state the you are applying to the YIIP program and that Anne Lanzit has requested your email. Application fees will not be refunded if the application is submitted without completion of this step.


Manage your application via your Application Status Page.  If you are missing any requirements for application review, you will receive emails with further details.

For more information, contact YIIP Program Manager, Lana Angelo

Program Specifics


All YIIP Scholars are provided a team of mentors to guide them through their research and graduate education experience. Each scholar’s Lab Mentor (PI) will coordinate their efforts with their graduate student’s M1 Mentors. Additional mentors include faculty members from within and outside their department, graduate school leadership, and diversity team members.

Seminar Series

All YIIP Scholars are required to attend bi-weekly seminars presented by UConn faculty members. Seminars have been offered on the following topics, and additional subjects are regularly added based upon scholars’ interests.

  • Biostatistics and Data Analytics
  • Cultural Competency in Research and Biomedical Science
  • Health Disparities and Health Equity
  • Journal Club Presentation Skills
  • Career Opportunities in Academia, Government, Industry, Private and Not-for-Profit Sectors
  • Translational Research
  • Research Ethics and the Role of the Institutional Review Board
  • Publishing in Academic Journals
  • Mentor and Mentee Relationship
  • Preparing a Curriculum Vitae and Personal Statement
  • Presenting at Scientific Conferences
  • Scientific Writing and Communication

Year One: Graduate Certificate Program

In Year One, YIIP Scholars focus on completing laboratory research and coursework to achieve a Graduate Certificate of Research Experience in Biomedical Science. This experience provides extensive laboratory research findings which serves as the basis for development of the master’s thesis. At least 15 credits are required for the Graduate Certificate with a minimum overall GPA of 3.00.

Fall Credits
Laboratory Rotation 3
Journal Club - Graduate Seminar 1
Molecular Basis of Disease 2
Laboratory Rotation 4
Journal Club - Graduate Seminar 1
Responsible Conduct in Research 1
Critical Issues Involving the Scientific Publication: The Scientific Review 3


Year Two: Master of Science

[NOTE: Only current YIIP Scholars who successfully complete Year one of the program are eligible to apply to the UConn Graduate School’s Master of Science in Biomedical Science degree program.]

Over the two year program, at least 30 credits in total are required for the Master’s Plan of Study (A) with a minimum overall GPA of 3.00. These must include at least 9 credits of GRAD 5950 (Master’s Thesis Research) and at least 21 credits of content coursework (all courses except those with a GRAD designation). In addition, a public thesis defense is required to complete the master’s degree

Fall Credits
Master's Research Thesis 4
Journal Club - Graduate Seminar 1
Elective Graduate School Course 2
Independent Study 2
Master's Research Thesis 5
Journal Club - Graduate Seminar 1

Current YIIP Scholars

Kai Clarke

Florida Institute of Technology

Major: Biomedical Engineering


David Onwuka

University of Connecticut

Major: Molecular & Cell Biology

Christina Valera

University of Connecticut

Major: Physiology & Neurobiology

Morgan Dawkins 144 216

Morgan Dawkins

University of Arkansas

Major: Biomedical Engineering


Mylan Panteah

New Mexico State Univ.; Univ. of North Dakota

Major: Biology, Allopathic Medicine

Tebyan Khalfalla

University of Connecticut

Major: Physiology & Neurobiology

Kaussar Rahman

Mount Holyoke College Graduate

Major: Molecular Oncology

Former YIIP Scholars

  • Jaliyah Peterson, Spelman College, Molecular Biology and Biophysics
  • John Garcia, University of Connecticut, Skeletal Biology and Regeneration
  • Joshua Green, Southern Connecticut State University, B.S., Biochemistry
  • Anisha Lewis, Brown University, B.A., Public Health
  • Savannah Samuel, Xavier University of Louisiana, B.S., Chemistry
  • Aundrya Montgomery, Alabama State University , B.S., Biology/Pre-Health
  • Shania Aponte-Paris, Universidad Adventista de los Antilles, B.S., Biology
  • Aaliyah Riccardi, University of Connecticut, B.S., Biology
  • Archibald Agyekum-Yamoah, University of Ghana, B.S., Biology Southern Connecticut State University, B.S., Biochemistry, Mathematics minor
  • Melissa Carr-Reynolds, Spelman College, B.S., Biology
  • Nilse Dos Santos, University of Rhode Island, B.S., Biological Science
  • La Shondra Ellis, Oakwood College, B.S., Biology
  • Trisha Kwarko, University of Connecticut, B.S., Allied Health Sciences
  • Sandra Lopez, University of Connecticut, B.S., Biological Sciences
  • Akilah Plair, Southern Connecticut State University, B.S., Biochemistry

Scholar Testimonials

“The Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP) has equipped me with priceless tools necessary for both my personal and professional development. This program along with its invaluable mentors have helped strengthen my inner confidence crucial to the journey of becoming an academic physician. The space created for underrepresented minorities within this program continues to be a safe environment focused on nourishing its scholars through academics, research exposure, and self-empowerment.”

​- Aundrya Montgomery

"The Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP) gave me the amazing opportunity to come to the U.S. and immerse myself in the research field. Thanks to the amazing mentorship of the YIIP program and CICATS, I was able to successfully complete my master's degree and fulfill my goal which was to go to medical school. It was during this program that I found my calling - combining research and service through medicine. The experiences and skills I have acquired through the Young Innovative Investigator Program not only prepared me for medical school, but also equipped me with the necessary tools needed to provide research that benefits everyone, in order to close the health disparities seen in many communities."

- Shania Aponte-Paris


Is this a post-baccalaureate program?

YIIP is not a post-baccalaureate program. Scholars are enrolled in The Graduate School at UConn Health, take graduate level courses, and conduct intense biomedical science laboratory research in their Graduate Assistant positions.


How many credits are needed for the Graduate Certificate of Research Experience in Biomedical Science?

A total of 15 credits are required for the Graduate Certificate.


Do I earn an income in my position as a Graduate Assistant?

Currently all YIIP Scholars who are employed as Graduate Assistants earn an annual stipend of $32,000. The appointment is contingent upon availability of funding and performance both in academics and conducting research in laboratories on the UConn Health campus.


Is my tuition waived? Do I qualify for health insurance?

A full tuition waiver is granted based upon continued participation and performance in this program. Graduate students are offered health insurance enrollment.


When does the program start?

Orientation for the fall semester typically begins in the third week of August, and classes begin August 30.


How do I apply for a Master of Science in Biomedical Science degree?

Only current YIIP Scholars are eligible to apply to the UConn Master of Science in Biomedical Science degree program. During the spring semester of year one, the Program manager will notify students of the application timeline.