Promoting Engagement, Retention and Success in STEM Training



The UCR PERSIST (Promoting Engagement, Retention and Success in STEM Training). Program is a year-long sophomore success program that aims to continue the support provided by the CNAS Learning Communities. PERSIST intends to do so by further enhancing the academic performance and research experience of previous Learning Community students, now sophomores. Students in this program will receive consistent peer mentoring, financial support, and extensive exposure to undergraduate research. At the end of the program all PERSIST students will receive a guaranteed seat in RISE.


"The PERSIST program guides you into the seemingly bizarre world of research."

"It provides you with resources and mentors to aid in clarifying your intellectual vitality. Now as a PERSIST mentor, I am given the chance to help mentees nurture their initial passion for discovery. These seedlings blossom only if you water them right."
- Jose Mendez, Class of 2020

Program Structure


  • How do I know if I am eligible?

    To be considered for the PERSIST program, all applicants must:

    • Be a current CNAS major with a genuine interest in research.
    • Have completed the full year of the CNAS Learning Community program.
    • Must have began FR year in either MATH 6A or MATH 5
    • Be entering their 2nd second year at UCR the first quarter of the program (Fall).
    • Be willing to commit to the full year of the program, which includes participating in RISE in the summer. 
  • How do I apply?

    The application due date for 2020 has passed. Please check back later for updates. If you have questions, please email 

  • How is the program structured?

    Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer:

    • Students receive a $1,500.00 stipend Fall, Winter, and Spring to provide financial support.
    • Students will receive consistent one-on-one support and attend workshops facilitated by our PERSIST Peer Mentors. Our Peer Mentors are academically successful and highly accomplished students who have conducted undergraduate research and have participated in RISE.


    • Students will enroll in a one-unit research seminar (NASC-092) taught by Dr. Jack Eichler. This seminar will introduce participants to the process of STEM research. Following this course, students will take an additional NASC-092 seminar in Winter. 
    • Students will visit the Claremont Keck Graduate Institute to learn about research and job opportunities in biotechnology. 


    • Students will enroll in the second section of NASC-092 taught by Dr. Jack Eichler. This seminar will focus on introducing PERSIST students to faculty conducting research currently at UC Riverside. 
    • Students will attend the Early Student Career Planning Expo Winter quarter.


    • Students will be given a guaranteed spot in RISE.
  • Who are the Primary Investigators?

    The implementation and success of PERSIST is due to the efforts of the Primary Investigators (PI) for our program's grant funding. We acknowledge and thank you for your commitment to undergraduate student success:

    • Dr. Connie Nugent. Divisional Dean of Student Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Biology.
    • Dr. Sue Wessler. Neil A. and Rochelle A. Campbell Presidential Chair and Distinguished Professor of Genetics
  • What type of companies could I work for?

    Through PERSIST, students have an opportunity to obtain research positions and gain extensive experience after their sophomore year. Numerous biotech companies are eager to hire experienced and knowledgeable graduates with research skills. California is one of the central biotech hot spots, containing companies such as but not limited to:

    1. Gilead Sciences: Focuses primarily on antiviral drugs used in the treatment of HIV, Hepatitis and Influenza.
    2. Genentech: Major works include targeting antibodies for cancer and locating the first medicine for Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.
    3. Amgen: Focuses on six therapeutic areas, (1) Cardiovascular Disease, (2) Oncology, (3) Bone Health, (4) Neuroscience, (5) Nephrology and (6) Inflammation.
    4. Dexcom: Develops, manufactures and distributes continuous glucose monitoring systems for Diabetes management.
    5. Kite Pharmaceuticals: A subsidiary of Gilead Sciences that develops Cancer immunotherapy products.
    6. Veracyte: Specializes in genomic tests that are transforming the diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer, Lung Cancer and Pulmonary Fibrosis.




The PERSIST Peer Mentor program exposes students to research, industry professionals and careers in biotechnology. Our PERSIST Peer Mentors specialize in assisting second-year mentees acquire research opportunities and navigate the career fields in biotech. Having acquired research opportunities themselves, worked in on-campus labs and gained experience in diverse on and off-campus volunteer experiences, they are prepared to imbue a unique perspective on academic research into their mentees. Their goal is to train the mentees by teaching them career skills in their biweekly meetings, such as netiquette, resume writing and public speaking. They also work with mentees to discuss items such as reading academic journals or building LinkedIn accounts, which are meant to springboard the mentee toward success.


Keck Graduate Institute & PERSIST


Keck Graduate Institute is proud to have collaborated with the University of California, Riverside (UCR) on a recently awarded five-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to provide scholarships, academic support, research experience and internships for a small group of sophomores majoring in science. The pilot project, known as PERSIST (Promoting Engagement, Retention and Success in STEM Training), will help a pre-determined amount of sophomores who demonstrate financial need each year, for a total of 60 scholarships over five years. Each student will receive a $9,500 scholarship.

The goal of PERSIST is to create a bridge to upper-division continuation and to support sophomores as they continue to pursue STEM degrees. Since data has shown that efforts to improve retention for students in STEM fields are most critical for freshman and sophomores, the scholarship is an important facet of the program, according to UCR's Dr. Michael McKibben. The financial assistance is given to decrease the need for low-income students to work part-time and to increase their opportunities to be involved in second-year undergraduate research and internships that can lead to more students who complete degrees in STEM.

In addition to the scholarship, the program also includes the Early Student Career Planning Expo (ESCAPE), a biotechnology career workshop, and peer mentor pairing. The ESCAPE event will be an all day Saturday event focusing on STEM careers and will bring UCR alumni and donors, and research-active Science Ambassadors from the College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences at UCR, and will also feature career panels in industry and technology, government and academia, and health professions.

KGI will play an important role in the PERSIST program by hosting a biotechnology career workshop on its campus in Claremont, CA. Speaking of the importance of the career day workshop, Dean of the School of Applied Life Sciences at KGI, Steve Casper said, “The career day workshop we will host is a good example of what we do every day at KGI-reach out to talented individuals to raise awareness of the multitude of career options in the life sciences.” PERSIST students will visit KGI each year to attend a one-day workshop where they will participate in active-learning projects that will allow them to explore the various sectors of the biotechnology industry. These include bioprocessing, devices and diagnostics, regulatory affairs, clinical trial design, intellectual property management, and pharmaceutical development.

Dean Casper noted the value PERSIST students will gain from participating in the program’s various activities. “With the help of the program, these students will be able to learn more about STEM careers that will hopefully enable them to make meaningful career decisions. The exposure they will get to industry professionals however is paramount. Validation from industry professionals is key to student success and can provide them with that extra push and motivation to pursue something they may have thought was otherwise not possible.”

Excerpts retrieved from:

Published: June 23, 2016


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