• Mar 13 2023

SPARK Program Announces 2023 Cohort

Two rows of photos depicting the 2023 SPARK Cohort

The 2023 SPARK cohort is pictured alphabetically from left to right. 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 11, 2023) – The University of Kentucky SPARK (Students Participating as Ambassadors for Research in Kentucky) Program has named its 2023 cohort.

Now in its fourth year, The SPARK program allows undergraduate students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds and communities to get a jumpstart in health equity research early in their college experience. The program has grown to include undergraduates from Kentucky State University (KSU) in addition to UK students; a total of 11 students have been supported by SPARK so far. 

Students interested in the joining the program go through a rigorous application process, including an interview. Accepted students, called SPARKlers, then complete a semester-long health equity research course and select research mentors in their topic areas. They learn how to develop and implement a health equity research study, operate a budget, adhere to human subjects protections and research integrity standards, collaborate with community members, analyze data, and present their research at a large academic conference.

While hands-on research experience and building their resume is important for future academic and employment prospects, most students—and especially those from underrepresented backgrounds and communities—can't afford to skip a summer of earning a wage. SPARKlers therefore receive a stipend for their summer research work, in addition to funding for the research project. 

“Training the next generation of health equity researchers will enhance community health. The SPARK program provides foundational knowledge and skills for students to be successful in graduate and professional schools as well as working in health equity research positions. The program invests in these bright students to serve as research change agents who can work to improve health and reduce health disparities throughout their careers. SPARK alumni have gone on to pursue doctoral degrees or careers in clinical research, among other things,” said Carrie Oser, PhD, associate director of the UK Center for Health Equity Transformation.

SPARK is a collaboration between CHET, the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science, the UK Cardiovascular Research Priority Area, and several KSU faculty members. Additional financial support is provided by the Aetna Foundation.

The 2023 SPARK cohort includes:

  • Maddie Duff
    University of Kentucky Sophomore
    Major: Neuroscience
    Minor: Appalachian Studies
  • Treasure Ebikwo
    University of Kentucky Junior
    Major: Health, Society, and Populations
  • Jade Forest
    University of Kentucky Junior
    Major: Public Health
    Minor: Health Promotions
  • Ellis Jackson
    Kentucky State University Sophomore
    Major: Pre-Professional Biology
  • Segen Mussie
    Kentucky State University Junior
    Major: Pre-Professional Biology
  • Carey Beth Smith
    University of Kentucky Sophomore
    Major: Human Health Sciences, Pre-med


Media Contact: Mallory Profeta, mallory.profeta@uky.edu