The National Institute for General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) Fellows and Affiliates Program at UCSF is designed to support historically underrepresented and marginalized PhD students in basic science graduate programs. UCSF’s first IMSD grant was awarded in 1997, which supports selected students in the first two years of their graduate studies. To date, over 100 students have benefited from an IMSD Fellows and Affiliates Program at UCSF.

Eligibility and Selection

The NIGMS IMSD Fellowship at UCSF targets historically underrepresented and marginalized students in the basic science PhD graduate programs. These groups include U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are African American, Hispanic American, Native American, and natives of the U.S. Pacific Islands, and individuals living with disabilities.

Student Support

Recipients of the IMSD fellowship at UCSF are supported in the following ways:

Summer Research Rotation (SRR)

The Summer Research Rotation (SRR) is the centerpiece of the UCSF IMSD program. The first-year IMSD students arrive early at UCSF and carry out a 10-week, closely mentored summer research rotation in the laboratory of a faculty member chosen with their graduate program director. Many students and PIs have found that an additional summer research rotation can provide smooth transition to UCSF (finding housing, exploring facilities, etc.), as well as providing opportunities for additional training, acquiring specific skills, and valuable exposure to the program’s research opportunities. IMSD program benefits include:

  • Summer salary to cover housing and expenses. 
  • Reception with IMSD leadership, IMSD faculty advisory board, and fellows from previous years.

Financial Support

A cohort of six first-year IMSD fellows is selected each year. The graduate programs identify and nominate newly admitted students for the fellowship and final selections are confirmed by the IMSD faculty advisory committee. The IMSD award supports the fellows in years 1-2. In subsequent years, students are supported in a variety of ways, including funding from other fellowships, and through their labs and graduate programs.

Stipend: Each student receives a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) payroll appointment with a monthly stipend and is required to meet in person with Human Resources to complete paperwork before payment is made. Stipends are adjusted for inflation each year and paid in arrears, so the first payment will be made on the first day of the month following the fellowship start date. Fellowships begin on September 1 and the first payment will be made on October 1. Payment will be disbursed monthly by the UCSF payroll department. Taxes are withheld from all salary payments and additional withholding applies during the summer. (See additional information about taxes on student employment.)

Tuition and Fees: In the first and second year of the student's program, the IMSD fellowship pays 60% of resident tuition plus fees or $16,000 toward non-resident tuition and fees. The student's lab or program covers the rest. After the first year in a program, students should establish California state residency, at which point non-resident tuition is waived. Information about residency requirements for tuition purposes is available through the Office of the Registrar. As stated above, the fellow's graduate program or advisor pays the full resident tuition and fees in years 3-5, unless the student has other funding, for example from a different fellowship.

Academic Enrichment Activities

To add to the value of their academic experience at UCSF, IMSD students participate in academic enrichment opportunities both on- and off-campus. The co-curriculum focuses on developing research, communication, and other skills, work-life balance, and meetings with minority and/or first-generation faculty and industry leaders from UCSF and other universities in the Bay Area. Some sessions are held at the small cohort level; previous IMSD cohorts (those currently in years 3-5 of their degree program) will participate in other meetings and serve as mentors for the current cohort. *See a full list of workshops in the table below.

Career Development and Planning

One of the goals of the IMSD program is to stimulate students' involvement in career planning, and to ensure their access to campus resources related to research career placement strategies. Students are encouraged to use the services and participate in the programming offered by the UCSF Office of Career and Professional Development.

Peer Mentorship

Faculty mentorship within the laboratory setting is augmented by effective peer mentoring. IMSD students have the opportunity to develop personal and professional relationships with their fellow researchers. IMSD students may also provide guidance and mentorship to undergraduate and prospective students through participation in campus outreach activities.

Category Workshop(s)
  • Early Summer Research Experience
  • Qualifying Exam Preparation
  • Fellowship Writing Series (3-part series)
Mental Health and Wellbeing
  • Shame Resiliency: Combating an Invisible Feeling in Graduate School
  • Creating Community: Building Resiliency among Graduate Students and Postdocs (half-day series of workshops)
  • Microaffirmations: A Tool to Combat Imposter Syndrome and to Build Community
Mentorship (*also faculty mentorship and mentorship from assistant dean and IMSD program director)
  • Identifying Your Mentors
  • IMSD Fellow-IRACDA Postdoctoral Scholar Near-Peer Mentorship Program
Career Development
  • What Can You Do With Your PhD?: Careers Within and Beyond the Academy
  • Introduction to Career Exploration Opportunities for PhD Students at UCSF
Professional Development
  • Assertive Communication and Self-Empowerment
  • Goal Setting
  • Elevator Pitch
  • Strategies for Effective Time and Project Management
Community Building
  • IMSD Summer Retreat to Welcome Incoming Students
  • IMSD Fellow-IRACDA Postdoctoral Scholar Retreat (full-day retreat focused on storytelling, scientific communication, and community building among graduate students and postdocs of color)
  • UCSF’s Annual Diversity Soirée
  • Service Learning and Community Engagement Opportunities
  • Informal Gatherings (held quarterly)
Race and Identity
  • Aligning Personal and Scientific Identities in Graduate School
  • Strategies to Combat Microaggressions and Stereotype Threat

Note: Discussing and celebrating lived experiences and intersectional identities are highlighted in all of these workshops

Current Fellows and Affiliates

Kevin Alexander Estrada Alamo, Biophysics
Victor Alcala-Kellogg, Pharmaceutical Science and Pharmacogenomics

Jules Brunello, Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Gabriela Pena Carmona, Bioengineering
Marisol Contreras, Pharmaceutical Science and Pharmacogenomics
Jayla Crawford, Pharmaceutical Science and Pharmacogenomics
Keana Davis, Biophysics
Sarina Ehteshamzadeh, Tetrad
Sydney Figueroa, Chemistry and Chemical Biology
John Gonzales,
Pharmaceutical Science and Pharmacogenomics
Grace Hala'ufia, Neuroscience
Elizabeth Hardy, Pharmaceutical Science and Pharmacogenomics
Jasmine Keyes, Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Chang Liu, Tetrad
Cassandra Martinez, Biomedical Sciences
Jessica Pacheco, Oral and Craniofacial Sciences
Paulina Paiz, Biological and Medical Informatics
Arren Chavez Ramsey, Biomedical Sciences
Rashad Reid, Biological and Medical Informatics
Christina Roca, Neuroscience
Belmaliz Cardona Rodríguez, Oral and Craniofacial Sciences
Saheli Singh, Neuroscience
John Matthew Suntay, Biological and Medical Informatics
Luis Oliva, Tetrad
Eric Tang, Tetrad
Maria Tarazona, Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Edward Valenzuela, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology
Estefany Vasquez,
Sarah Wasinger, Bioengineering

IMSD Faculty Advisory Committee

IMSD Mentors

UCSF's IMSD program is funded by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, award number 5R25GM056847.


Dr. D'Anne Duncan
Assistant Dean for Diversity and Learner Success and UCSF IMSD Co-PI
Email: [email protected]

Jessica Ip
Diversity Programs and Assessments Specialist
Email: [email protected]

Learn more about how this and other internal fellowships are awarded.

Pictured above are the NIGMS program's 2022 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship recipients and honorable mentions.