This proposal is a competitive renewal of the Penn State STEP-UP program initially funded in 2007. The program is designed to provide short-term experience and training in biomedical research for undergraduate students from racial/ethnic-underrepresented groups, and for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. W. Brian Reeves, M.D., Vice Chair of Medicine and Chief of Nephrology at Penn State will serve as Program Director. Progress under the current award period has been excellent. 127 students have matriculated through the Penn State STEP-UP program in its first four years. Penn State has made targeted recruitment efforts through several minority student organizations which have resulted in a rapid increase in the number of applications received. Applications now exceed available positions by a 5:1 ratio. Since its inception over 20% of Penn State STEP-UP students have enrolled in graduate science programs or work in research-related positions. The current proposal builds on the successes of the current STEP-UP program and significantly expands certain core curricular elements, increases the range of available research experiences and enhances the evaluation and tracking components of the program. The plan provides background and hands-on experience in research related to the mission of NIDDK. In order to increase the number of underrepresented minority and disadvantaged students with research education and training that will develop both research capabilities and interest in pursuing careers in biomedical research, it is necessary to address both content knowledge and technical skills, and attitudinal and perceptional barriers to success. Penn State is uniquely positioned to achieve these overarching goals because of the ongoing collaborations within The Pennsylvania State University System to improve K-16 science education and the considerable experience of our faculty in implementing undergraduate research programs. The objectives of the proposal are that students will (1) learn, through hands-on experience, how discovery research is conducted and the results are disseminated to others, (2) explore careers in biomedical research and become familiar with the requirements to pursue selected career options (3), become proficient in acquiring reliable information and exchanging ideas and information, and (4) learn about the prevention, cause and treatment of obesity, diabetes, and kidney/urologic/digestive diseases. The curriculum will also include discussions on normative standards of conduct, privacy and confidentiality issues, laboratory safety, research integrity, record keeping, data management, and communication skills. Although the primary goal of this proposal is to increase the number and competence of members of underrepresented groups in biomedical research, an important secondary benefit is to expand the proportion of underrepresented population who understand that life-style decisions have great consequences for their personal health and that of their family, friends and community.
The STEP-UP program will result in greater participation by under-represented minorities in biomedical research. This participation will benefit society as a whole by bringing unique perspectives to the study of human disease, which often disproportionately affects minorities.
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