Vagelos Scholars Program in Molecular Life Sciences

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Roy and Diana Vagelos Laboratories

The Vagelos Scholars Program in the Molecular Life Sciences is an undergraduate program at the University of Pennsylvania, named after Penn alumnus and Merck CEO Roy Vagelos (class of 1950) and his wife Diana.

Roy Vagelos donated over 15 million dollars to the University of Pennsylvania, in order to create the Roy and Diana Vagelos Laboratories, located in front of the Chemistry Labs. This money also went to creating the Vagelos Scholars Program In Molecular Life Sciences, an intensive program offered to freshman attending the University of Pennsylvania. Roy's only condition was that the Vagelos Scholars Program appoint a director who would be paid a salary inversely proportional to the amount of sleep a Vagelos Scholar would receive.

Focusing on the core principles of chemistry, mathematics, and physics, students take five courses per semester en route to either 1) a double major in two sciences, or 2) a major in chemistry or biochemistry and a submatriculated master's degree in the same subject. Rather than concentrating primarily on classroom instruction and grades, the program emphasizes the need for students to take an active role in research throughout the university, encouraging students to begin development of their future scientific careers through challenging courseloads. Included in the program are two paid summers for on-campus research.

The Vagelos Program began in 1997 and has graduated five classes as of 2006. Over ninety percent of the students attend graduate or medical school after completing the program.[1]

Program details[edit]

A Vagelos Scholar is required to complete 40 credit units (c.u.) in order to graduate within the program.[1] This requires a minimum of five c.u. per semester, though some choose to take more. Most students graduate with a major in biochemistry and then choose to either submatriculate to obtain their master's during their undergraduate years or obtain a dual major in another science.

A freshman in the Vagelos Program takes General Chemistry I, Calculus I or II, and Principles of Physics (including lab). Students with AP credit may choose to not take General Chemistry and instead take Honors Chemistry or Organic Chemistry. During a Vagelos Scholar’s first year, he or she will also be required to take the Vagelos Scholar’s Seminar taught by the program head, which exposes the student to magazine articles from Science, the New York Times Science section, and various books written by practicing scientists or economists.

Participation in a faculty research group, of which there are more than 600 located on campus, is required. Participants are encouraged to find work in a biomedical field, though anything related to their studies is acceptable.

With normal attrition, only about ten students graduate from thirty-five. This program is known for its notorious drop rate.


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