There is a critical national need for educational innovations that recruit undergraduate students to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) disciplines that fill the pipeline with scientists who conduct research in areas relevant to the NIH mission, and, in particular, that of NIDDK. Moreover, there is a dearth of STEM-oriented undergraduate students from whom to recruit into STEM careers, particularly those students from geographically- and economically-disadvantaged backgrounds and underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups and Native Americans. Also, shortfalls in STEM achievement in K-12 students threaten the pipeline for entry of STEM undergraduates into advanced studies and the STEM workforce. These factors are major educational challenges that require innovations to overcome. The proposal seeks to help recruit, prepare and increase the numbers of undergraduate students that pursue STEM disciplines relevant to the NIDDK mission. We hypothesize that: 1) an intense research experience for undergraduate students involving crafting of questions, designing and conducting experiments, and presenting and arguing results will help develop their STEM acumen and recruit them into STEM careers;and 2) the research experience in diabetic nephropathy will help recruit them into STEM disciplines that serve as a foundation for investigation of renal biology and disease, and particularly diabetic renal disease. The proposal capitalizes on a 3-year pilot educational initiative, funded by a NIDDK ARRA supplemental grant, that established a novel AspirnautTM K-20 STEM pipeline (www.aspirnaut.org) for recruiting and developing diverse undergraduate and high school students for STEM careers. The research theme is the "Pathobiology of Diabetic Nephropathy". This theme is a primary research focus of the Division of Nephrology and the Center for Matrix Biology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
The Specific Aims are:
Aim 1. To provide research experience for 15 undergraduate students on the topic of "Pathobiology of Diabetic Nephropathy." Aim 2. To target 40% of participants to be underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and Native Americans and 70% from geographically- and economically-disadvantaged backgrounds.
Aim 3. To teach 15 undergraduate students how to be mentors and inspirational role models for elementary and middle school students at rural schools. The outcomes are anticipated to help recruit increased numbers of undergraduates from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups into STEM disciplines of relevance to the NIDDK mission.
There is a critical national need for educational innovations that recruit undergraduate students to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) disciplines that fill the pipeline with scientists. The outcomes of the proposed research experiences are anticipated to help increase the number of undergraduates from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups who pursue STEM disciplines of relevance to the NIDDK mission.
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