A 10-week summer research program for undergraduate students at UC Riverside has received financial support that will help the program grow, advance, and reach more students from diverse backgrounds.
Alumnus Amit Munshi and his wife June have established a $500,000 endowment to support and increase student participation in Research In Science and Engineering, or RISE, which is conducted in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, or CNAS housed at the university.
RISE participants receive research experience and training, and can participate in seminars and workshops aimed at preparing them to become better scientists. The programme, which runs from late June to late August each summer, also aims to expose a growing number of students from diverse backgrounds to research.
The Munshi Family Research Scholars Endowed Fund will permanently support the participation of three UCR students, known as the Munshi RISE Scholars, each summer. There will also be a small subsidy towards their living expenses.
“Amit is the quintessential UCR graduate and I couldn’t be prouder of the contributions he and June have made to the sciences and the life-changing opportunities that the new Munshi Family Research Scholars Endowed Fund is offering to UCR students will,” he told Kathryn E. Uhrich, Dean of CNAS. “The fund they created is an invaluable investment in the future of our students.”
Amit Munshi received his bachelor’s degree in economics and history from UCR in 1990 and an MBA from the Peter F. Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. From 2016 until his acquisition by Pfizer in 2021, he was President, CEO and Director of Arena Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company based in San Diego, California. He has also held several prominent leadership positions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. He has over 30 years of experience in the global biopharmaceutical industry in executive leadership, business development, product development and portfolio management.
June Munshi received her bachelor’s degree in economics and international relations from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in finance from Columbia Business School. She is co-founder of The CenterCap Group, LLC, a boutique investment banking firm. Previously, she was co-head of mergers and acquisitions and senior managing director at CB Richard Ellis Investors.
“We are honored to be working with Dean Uhrich and CNAS to support summer research at UCR,” the Munshis said in a statement. “As immigrants who have had jobs unrelated to our majors to pay for college, we strongly believe that immigrants and first-generation students at UCR have an opportunity to use their summers to pursue their pursue their passion by working with their professors on important research. This fund is a small step in building the next generation of diverse science leaders.”
The Munshis strongly believe in empowering the next generation of scientific leaders and see life sciences as crucial in providing important insights into human health and the understanding of life. Munshi RISE Scholars’ research will focus on the life sciences.
Students enrolled in a degree offered by CNAS may apply for financial aid from the Munshi Family Research Scholars Endowed Fund. Applicants can be incoming transfers, aspiring sophomores, juniors and seniors. You must have a GPA of at least 3.0 to demonstrate high academic achievement. Students who are immigrant to the United States and/or are the first in their families to attend college are encouraged to apply. Students with financial needs are also taken into account.
The RISE program began in 2010 and has been run every year since, including the years of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 90 students participate each year; of these, around 15 are supported by philanthropic funds. Marina Zaza, who joined UCR from Citrus Community College last fall, is one of those participants who received financial support. An email from UCR about the program piqued her interest in the RISE program.
“I was already interested in microbiology research and applied to the program shortly after I decided to join UCR,” she said. “At RISE I worked on DNA extraction and compared the microbiomes of different samples like soil, mouse droppings and dust. This experience prepared me for the research I am now doing at UCR.”
Zaza received a $5,000 grant during her participation in the RISE program last summer, made possible by a donation to CNAS from Arena Pharmaceuticals. Zaza’s advice for students unsure about joining the program is to fill out the application.
“You’ll get excellent hands-on experience that will allow you to work on something you love to do and contribute to the research field,” she said. “It also looks good on your CV and you get to know what a laboratory work environment is like. I made several good friends in the program, one of whom is now my best friend. I also had the opportunity to visit San Diego and give a presentation at Arena Pharmaceuticals which was an excellent and rewarding experience for me.”
More information about the RISE program.