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. or 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 and also may 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 Biomedical Science Research Experience Graduate Certificate. 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.

Current YIIP Scholars

Kai Clarke

Florida Institute of Technology

Major: Biomedical Engineering


David Onwuka

University of Connecticut

Major: Molecular & Cell Biology


Luis Loza Rojas

University of Connecticut

Major: Chemical Engineering

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

Christina Valera

University of Connecticut

Major: Physiology & Neurobiology

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