Department of Biology receives funds to support summer students

Last month, the Department of Biology received a generous gift from Michael Gould and Sara Moss to support students participating in MIT’s Summer Research Program in Biology (MSRP-Bio). Gould is a philanthropist and the retired chair and CEO of Bloomingdales, and Moss is the vice chair of Estée Lauder Companies. Their gift will supplement the existing Bernard S. and Sophie G. Gould Fund, which the couple initiated in 2015 to honor Gould’s parents. Together, these donations will enable many undergraduate students from outside MIT who are interested in a career in life science to participate in MSRP-Bio each summer. To honor the Gould family’s generosity, MSRP-Bio will be renamed the Bernard S. and Sophie G. Gould MIT Summer Research Program in Biology, or BSG-MSRP-Bio.

“We are deeply grateful to Mike and Sara for their commitment to and support for our community,” says department head and Praecis Professor Alan Grossman. “Their willingness to enable opportunities for students will allow many talented individuals to benefit from research experiences here at MIT, and foster the next generation of scientists.”

“Mike Gould and Sara Moss are amazing people,” says Mandana Sassanfar, the Department of Biology’s director of outreach. “They’ve made a generous gift that has enabled MRSP-Bio to give many deserving undergraduates a life-changing summer research experience.”

MSRP-Bio is a 10-week summer program offered to non-MIT undergraduates, which provides access to cutting-edge facilities and supervised research in a fast-paced environment. The program encourages students from groups that are historically underrepresented in science, first-generation college students, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and students with disabilities to attend graduate school and pursue careers in basic research.

Every year, roughly 20 participants are placed in laboratories affiliated with the Department of Biology. In total, nearly 400 students have participated in MSRP-Bio since its establishment in 2003. Nearly 300 have already gone to PhD or MD/PhD programs, and of these, 63 have enrolled at MIT for graduate school and 45 have joined the Department of Biology specifically.

Gould and Moss were inspired to create a fund supporting MSRP-Bio because both of Gould’s parents were MIT alumni devoted to mentorship. Bernard “Bernie” Gould ’32 was a beloved biochemistry professor in the Department of Biology and counseled many biology and pre-med students for 50 years. His wife, Sophia Gould CMP ’48, earned a master’s degree in public health at a time when there were few female graduate students at the Institute, and shared this passion for training students.

“I’ve been inspired by my father, who was a first-generation American, cared enormously about his students, and nurtured their intellectual curiosity and drive,” Michael Gould says. “MSRP-Bio does the same by giving each student the opportunity of a lifetime. My dream is for every department at MIT to create a similar program. It would enrich the Institute immeasurably.”

“This gift will have a tremendous impact on the MSRP-Bio program in the biology department, and comes at a crucial time as issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion remain key priorities for the School of Science and Institute,” says Nergis Mavalvala, dean of MIT’s School of Science.

Since its inauguration in 2015, the Bernard S. and Sophie G. Gould Fund has offered scholarships to 30 MSRP-Bio students — six each year. Every summer, Gould and Moss travel to campus to get to know the current Gould fellows. The duo has been continually impressed by the caliber of students, and decided to provide more support to fund additional fellows and ensure the program’s longevity.

“Mike and Sara have a sustained interest in the well-being and success of the Gould fellows, and take pride in these students’ accomplishments,” Sassanfar says. “The Gould Fellowship stands out because of the open relationship between the Mike and Sara and the fellows, which forges meaningful connections that will last for many years.”

Participating in MSRP-Bio was a “life-changing” experience, says former Gould Fellow Meucci Ilunga. “I genuinely mean that — I can only imagine how different my life would be if I had not had that opportunity.”

Former Gould Fellow Asmita Panthi adds that MSRP-Bio showed her what she was capable of accomplishing, and gave her the confidence to apply to graduate school. “I’m so thankful for this impactful fellowship, which gives students like me — who come from small undergraduate institutions or humble backgrounds — the chance to participate in a rigorous research program.”

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