The Division of Environmental Health Sciences, in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, proposes to continue its STEER summer research internship for undergraduate students to introduce them to the field of environmental health sciences (EHS), with the long-term aim of increasing the number of talented students who pursue graduate degrees and careers in this field. Students will be recruited from the University of California, Berkeley, and other U.S. colleges and universities. Given the reputation of the current STEER program, the investigators expect to continue to attract undergraduates from across the country. Students admitted to the program will be matched to faculty conducting environmental health research of interest to the intern. Student interns will conduct research with their designated faculty mentor and members of their research team, including staff scientists, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Research projects may include direct data collection, literature reviewing, laboratory experiments, computer-based modeling, and data analysis, among others. The interns will also attend twice-weekly seminars, including presentations by selected faculty on their research programs and their career paths, as well as talks on ethics in science and the IRB process, an introduction to epidemiology, advice on getting into graduate school, and presentations by representatives of government, NGOs and industry. Field trips will be taken to sites of occupational and environmental health relevance, such as a stone quarry and a wastewater treatment plant. Students admitted to the program will also participate in instruction on writing a grant proposal and will have the opportunity to submit a mock application for review the final week of the program. A small prize will be awarded for the best application. They will also each research and present to the group a current topic in environmental health. At the end of the program, in a one-day colloquium, each intern, using visual aids, will make a presentation of their 9-week project to the other interns, faculty and guests. The Program will constantly seek to improve its recruitment process to better reach out to minority and disadvantaged students and maintain an ongoing evaluation process, to ensure the program continuously improves over the five-year period of the grant.
Many human health problems are caused by environmental exposures. There is a current shortage of young scientists going into the field of environmental health sciences (EHS), which seeks to identify the environmental causes of illness. Recruiting talented undergraduates into the STEER program will introduce students to exciting career opportunities in EHS and encourage them to seek advanced degrees and eventually assume leadership roles in research aimed at protecting the public from harmful environmental exposures.