For Ella Ofori, the dream of scientific research required more than the usual long hours: she had to work full time and squeeze night courses at the Community College of Philadelphia into her schedule. Often arriving home after 10 p.m., she'd study until the wee hours. But all that changed when Ofori received a letter from the college explaining she had qualified for a special training program.

Two years later, Ofori, 25, has nearly two years of laboratory experience. She routinely performs ELISA tests to check for immune responses and runs PCR procedures on mice DNA. She has worked for Jan Erikson, an internationally respected lupus and autoimmune disease researcher. Yet, Ofori just entered an undergraduate program at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia this summer. "I didn't expect I'd be able to do [research] so soon," she says. "On the normal path, I would get a...

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