The future of biomedical research depends on access to a diverse pool of well-trained scientists who are equipped to tackle the research challenges of the 21st century. The first step in generating this pool is to have a cadre of enthusiastic, ambitious, and creative educators who have the capacity to reach out to their students and inspire them to pursue careers in research. The challenge of identifying and training these educators is acute, particularly at minority serving institutions that often lack the resources and research infrastructure necessary to attract the best and the brightest young educators. As postdoctoral training typically focuses on research training, potential educators often face the challenge of developing the teaching skills and research portfolio necessary to be competitive for faculty positions. The VCU-IRACDA program is designed to address both of these issues. The program has two major goals. The first is to prepare postdoctoral fellows for faculty positions by training them in both cutting edge research and pedagogy. VCU IRACDA Trainees will perform research with well-funded mentors at VCU and will experience hands-on training in teaching at one of our partner minority-serving institutions (Virginia Union University, Virginia State University and Elizabeth City State University). The second goal of VCU IRACDA is to enhance the research "culture" of our partner institutions, by developing courses and providing research opportunities for both students and faculty. These goals will be accomplished through the following specific aims: (1) Identify at least 20 qualified applicants and annually recruit 3 excellent postdoctoral fellows to the 3- year VCU-IRACDA program, (2) Provide VCU-IRACDA postdoctoral fellows with intensive training in research and teaching, (3) Enhance the curricular offerings at our partner institutions through courses with a strong foundation in current research trends and methodologies that will enhance relevant knowledge and interest in research related careers among students and faculty, and (4) Implement a rigorous evaluation and tracking system for longitudinal follow-up of VCU-IRACDA postdoctoral Trainees and the undergraduate students and faculty at partner institutions.
We realize that a single program cannot ensure that the 21st century biomedical research workforce will reflect the increasing diversity of our nation. However, with our dedicated team of trainers, comprehensive and rigorous training regimen, and the talented pool of postdoctoral Trainees that we have and will continue to recruit, we believe that VCU IRACDA has the potential to make significant contributions to this effort.
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