The need for the U.S. to compete globally in science and specifically in biomedicine grows, but minority groups, although the fastest growing segments of the American population, are underrepresented in these fields. According to the Department of Education, only 3.5% of the 6,918 doctorates awarded in biological and biomedical sciences in 2007-2008 went to African Americans and only 3.7% went to Hispanics. A number of programs have been implemented by universities and independent organizations to encourage underrepresented groups to complete undergraduate degrees, enroll in graduate school, obtain doctorates, and enter scientific research careers. One program to increase the number of minority students entering careers in biomedicine is the use of prizes for undergraduate minority student research awarded by and at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). Studying prizes may be a particularly good way of studying mechanisms that produce effects on career choices. Plus, this research may help improve prize competitions as interventions and may help design more effective interventions of other types. The project will answer four questions, two preliminary ones and two primary ones. The preliminary questions are whether receiving a prize has an effect on the probability that an individual pursues a career in the biomedical sciences and whether the fact that one individual in an institution wins a prize has an effect on others in the same institution. The first primary question is whether the effects on individuals are primarily due to signaling (changing how the world sees the individual), changing the subjective probability of success in biomedical science career (changing how the individual sees the world), or identity formation and intrinsic motivation (changing the individual). The second primary question is whether the effect of one individual winning a prize on others in the same institution is likely caused by increased motivation or altering the subjective probability of success in biomedical research. We propose to investigate the first primary research question in two ways. First we will look for differential impacts of the prize on different groups of individuals by looking for differential effects of the prize that would be expected by the three theories of mechanism. Current information about the individuals will be obtained from public sources and from the persons themselves. Second, we will use a survey to determine how winners believe winning the prize affected them and how losers believe that the competition affected them.
The project asks how and why do prizes for promising minority students researching biology lead them to enter biomedicine, a field that urgently needs them. Do the prizes awarded change how the world sees the students now that they are prize winners, do the prizes change students'view of themselves in the world so that they believe they can be successful scientists, or do the prizes change the students'sense of themselves as scientists? Thus, this project will provide answers about how to increase the number of minority students who become biomedical researchers.