Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP)


The Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP) is a 2-year program of the The Cato T. Laurencin Institute for Regenerative Engineering 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 an intensive research program for college graduates comprised of graduate level coursework and supervised research in biomedical laboratories on the UConn Health campus. It provides individualized mentorship, academic support, and career guidance. 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 pursue a Master of Science in Biomedical Science involving innovative mentored research.


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 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.

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 Mentor. 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. Seminar topics include: Biostatistics and Data Analytics, Community Engagement, Covid-19 and Effects on the Conduct of Science, CV and Personal Statement, Health Justice and Diversity in Medical School Admissions, Mentor/Mentee Relationship, Preparing for Medical and Graduate School, Presenting at Scientific Conferences, Publishing in Academic Journals, Reading Scientific Literature, Research Ethics and the Role of the Institutional Review Board, Scientific Writing, and Translational Research.

YIIP Scholars


Romoye Sohan
University Of Connecticut
B,S; Biological Sciences

Morgan Dawkins
 University of Arkansas
B.S., Biomedical Engineering

Stephanie Chinwo
University Of Connecticut
B,S; Biological Sciences

Oyindamola (Damo) Teniola
University of South Florida
B,S; Chemical and Biomedical Engineering 

Sandro Cloiseau
University Of Connecticut
B,S; Biological Sciences

Current YIIP Scholars


Marc Antonio Merriman
Xavier University B.S; Biology

Taraje Whitfield
Princeton University
B,A; Molecular Biology

Reiner Gonzalez
University Of Connecticut
B,S; Molecular and Cell Biology 

Scholar Testimonials

Former YIIP Scholars

  • Archibald Agyekum-Yamoah, MD, MS: University of Ghana, B.S., Biology; Southern Connecticut State University, B.S., Biochemistry and Mathematics; University of Pittsburgh College of Medicine
  • Shania Aponte-Paris, MS: Universidad Adventista de los Antilles, B.S., Biology; Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine
  • Melissa Carr-Reynolds, MS: Spelman College, B.S., Biology
  • Kai Clarke, MS: Florida Institute of Technology B.S., Biomedical Engineering; UConn Graduate School, Biomedical Science
  • Nilse Dos Santos, MD, MS: University of Rhode Island, B.S., Biological Sciences; Penn State College of Medicine
  • La Shondra Ellis, MS: Oakwood College, B.S., Biology
  • John Garcia, MS, MPH: University of Connecticut, B.S., Biological Sciences; Quinnipiac School of Medicine
  • Joshua Green: Southern Connecticut State University, B.S., Biochemistry; Temple School of Podiatric Medicine
  • Tebyan Khalfalla: University of Connecticut, B.S., Physiology & Neurobiology; University of Rochester School of Medicine
  • Trisha Kwarko, MD, MS: University of Connecticut, B.S., Allied Health Sciences; UConn School of Medicine
  • Anisha Lewis, MD: Brown University, B.A., Public Health; UConn School of Medicine
  • Sandra Lopez, DMD, MS: University of Connecticut, B.S., Biological Sciences; Rutgers School of Dental Medicine
  • Luis Loza-Rojas: University of Connecticut, B.S., Chemical Engineering
  • Aundrya Montgomery, MS: Alabama State University, B.S., Biology/Pre-Health
  • David Onwuka, MS: University of Connecticut B.S., Molecular & Cell Biology; Tufts Medical School
  • Mylan Panteah, MD: New Mexico State University, B.S., Biology; University of North Dakota School of Medicine
  • Jaliyah Peterson, MS: Spelman College, B.S., Molecular Biology and Biophysics
  • Akilah Plair, ND, MS: Southern Connecticut State University, B.S., Biochemistry; University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine
  • Kaussar Rahman, MS: Mount Holyoke College, B.S., Biology
  • Aaliyah Riccardi, MD: University of Connecticut, B.S., Biology; University of Connecticut School of Medicine
  • Savannah Samuel: Xavier University of Louisiana, B.S., Chemistry
  • Christina Valera, MS: University of Connecticut B.S., Physiology & Neurobiology

Application Process and Requirements

Submission Deadline: Not Currently accepting applications 

Applicants to the Young Innovative Investigator Program (YIIP) must apply online to the UConn Graduate School


Step by Step Instructions for Application Process 

Graduate School Application

Graduate School Calendar


As we are committed to promoting a diverse graduate community, the Graduate School has agreed to waive the $75-dollar non-refundable application fee for prospective YIIP students. Once you begin your online application, you must email the YIIP Program Manager Jolene Monahan Wilding at stating that you are applying to the program to initiate the waiver. You will be notified when the waiver has been granted and how to proceed with your application submittal. Application fees will not be refunded if the application is submitted without completion of this step.