Microbiology graduate student Savanah Leidholt understands the importance of diversity.
As an undergraduate at Montana State University-Bozeman, Leidholt was a McNair Scholar, a program funded through the U.S. Department of Education to increase graduate degree awards for students from first- generation or underrepresented segments of society.
You could say the program had an impact: Leidholt joined Rebecca Vega Thurber’s lab as an incoming Ph.D. student in 2019.
Now, she is helping to create similar opportunities for other young people. Just as microbial diversity is fundamental to the maintenance and conservation of global genetic resources, academic diversity is equally important, Leidholt said.
“As a Hispanic woman who grew up in rural Montana, I can attest firsthand to the lack of STEM opportunities available for these demographics,” she said.
This past summer, Leidholt set out to create a summer “bootcamp” for area high school students to draw more students from BIPOC, LGBTQ+, low-income and other diverse backgrounds to the study of microbiology.