Many students enter college with an interest in studying science and even contemplate careers in biomedical and behavioral sciences. However, after enrolling in a few college-level science courses, these students often decide to pursue other majors. This issue, which is particularly salient for underrepresented minorities (URMs), is often termed the 'leaky pipeline.'Research on the 'leaky pipeline'indicates that early undergraduate research experiences and enriched curricular opportunities are important factors in enhancing students'interest in science and their perceived confidence in science (e.g., motivational beliefs). The current application builds on this prior work to examine the effectiveness of an intervention specifically targeting motivational self- beliefs for increasing college students'(especially URMs) pursuit of biomedical/behavioral research careers. The proposed intervention is based on our previously successful high school program called "Launch into Education About Pharmacology" (LEAP), which includes a summer enrichment course and a self-generated research experience. Our intervention also addresses 'stereotype threat'by including an incremental ability component to buoy perceived competence, interest, and achievement of URMs. The overall goal of our research is to identify the specific features and associated underlying psychological processes that are critical in creating effective interventions to encourage college students'pursuit of biomedical and behavioral science research careers. To achieve this goal, we have four specific aims: (1) evaluate the effect of participating in the LEAP summer course on science-related motivational beliefs, achievement, and career-related beliefs/choices, (2) evaluate the added benefit of the LEAP self-generated research experience for supporting science-related motivational beliefs, achievement, and career-related beliefs/choices, (3) evaluate the effect of fostering incremental ability beliefs on science-related motivational beliefs, achievement, and career-related beliefs/choices for URMs, and (4) examine the underlying psychological processes (e.g., motivation) that explain why the LEAP interventions and incremental ability treatment alter students'science achievement and career-related beliefs/choices. We examine both immediate and long-term (into the first year after college graduation) effects of participating in the LEAP program (relative to a no-treatment control group) in a sample of 960 Duke University freshmen. To examine the relative impact of (1) a self-generated research experience and (2) an incremental ability treatment, we use a 2 x 2 experimental design within the LEAP treatment. Our proposed work will inform educators and policy makes about specific elements that are critical in designing interventions to encourage college students'pursuit of biomedical/behavioral research careers. The assessment of key psychological variables through which our intervention operates will provide an enhanced, more nuanced understanding of what makes these interventions successful.

Public Health Relevance

This research will provide administrators and science faculty with evidence regarding specific educational/psychological elements that can be incorporated into existing programs/courses to increase students'pursuit of biomedical/behavioral research careers. We expect to show that coupling an early, self- generated research experience with a science enrichment program is critical for supporting the pathway into biomedical/behavioral sciences. Moreover, we will inform the educational community that this experience can help build motivational beliefs that are critical for supporting science achievement and entry into a research career, especially among underrepresented minorities.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZGM1-MORE-9 (IN))
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Sesma, Michael A
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Duke University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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