The call for more scientists and engineers has been ongoing for decades. Though there have been strides made in this effort, individuals from several population groups are still under-represented in the Science and Engineering fields. Under-represented minorities earned 11% and Asians/Pacific Islanders earned 10% of the Science and Engineering doctorates in 2007, up from 5% and 6%, respectively, in 1989. However, this representation is extremely low compared to the U.S. population where minorities represent over 35% of the general population demonstrating that there is a definite need for greater participation by minorities at all points of the educational pipeline. Two transition point that are crucial are the leaps from two-year community colleges into four-year baccalaureate completer colleges and from four-year colleges to masters programs. The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) proposes a transition program focusing on the first leap using a combination of activities including undergraduate research experience with mentoring and professional development. The Genomics Scholars Program (GSP) will focus on community college under-represented minority students to prepare them to enter four-year school. This will be accomplished by implementing the best practices of transition programs such as the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) Meyerhoff Scholars Program, United Negro College Fund-Merck Science Initiative, and the University of California, Davis (UCD), Biology Undergraduate Scholars Program (BUSP). Our program will incorporate multiple avenues of support for students through a multi-year research experience with the Principal Investigators as mentors, and supplemental professional development provided by the JCVI. Additionally, selected students will have the opportunity to participate in undergraduate minority research conferences, which will expose them to various aspects of research and programs. The goals of the GSP are to: engage underprivileged, diverse and academically vulnerable undergraduate students in genomic research;and to mentor a pool of community college undergraduates that are competitive to apply to four-year baccalaureate completer colleges. The proposed GSP will align directly with the Principal Investigator's scientific focus on the multi-year NIDDK funded Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) impact project (Grant Number: 1 DP3 DK 94343 - 01;2011-2015) understanding the impact of the host gut microbiome on T1D disease onset using genomic techniques. While integrating the Fellows into the laboratory research team, individual research experience will be developed based on their abilities and interest as well as the mentor's scientific focus on the NIDDK-T1D project. While supporting the overall aim of the T1D project, Fellows will have the opportunity to work directly with 'omics'data generated through this project. During their internship at JCVI we propose to engage the Fellows in diverse research activities situated within a portfolio of research and education initiatives operated by the JCVI.
The J. Craig Venter Institute's Genomics Scholar Program will mentor community college underrepresented minority students to increase the diversity of genomic scientists. In addition, these young scientists will be educated in genomics, metagenomics, functional genomics and bioinformatics.