The NIH IMSD Graduate Fellows Program has had a dramatic impact on PhD-level training of Underrepresented Minorities (URM) at UMBC. Since its inception in 1997, URM participation in supported departments (biology, chemistry, biochemistry, chemical/mechanical engineering, human services psychology, and physics) has increased from 0%, 1%, 0%, 1%, 8%, and 0%, respectively, to 14%, 15%, 28%, 10%, 13%, and 7%, respectively. Expansion to the Graduate Program in Life Science (GPILS) at our sister campus, the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB), in 2007 triggered a dramatic 50% increase in URM GPILS enrollment at UMB over the past 4 years. IMSD enrollment has increased linearly since 1997, with 66 PhD students currently enrolled in the combined UMBC/UMB IMSD Program (47 African American, 13 Hispanic, 1 Native American, 1 Pacific Islander, 4 non-URM (1 Caucasian, 3 women of Middle Eastern descent)). Retention (91% in the current funding period) has reached an all-time high, and URM PhD production has increased dramatically, from 6 URM PhD degrees awarded over the 15 years preceding IMSD to 46 PhDs awarded to IMSD Fellows since our first IMSD Fellow graduated in 2001 (a 10 year period). Of the 46 graduates, 32 (70%) matriculated directly to Postdoctoral or Residency positions. Although nearly all of the quantitative objectives of the current support period have been met, significant challenges remain. In particular, although 10 of the 13 IMSD graduates that have completed postdoctoral training obtained research- related positions in government or industry, only 2 matriculated to full time faculty positions (both currently non- tenure track). Seven additional graduates who are fully employed hold adjunct, non-tenure track college faculty or teaching positions. Since URM colleagues in full time faculty positions are likely to have the broadest impact as mentors and role models, we clearly must do a better job of preparing our IMSD graduates for pressures that are negatively impacting their interest in the Academy. We must particularly address negative pressures related to recent NIH findings that URMs are less likely to successfully compete for NIH funding compared to equally-prepared Caucasian colleagues. We now propose modifications to our IMSD Fellows Program that will better prepare interested IMSD Fellows for academic careers - a major national need. Objectives include: (1) continued linear growth in IMSD enrollment while maintaining high retention rate, (2) increasing URM enrollment in departments where URM growth has lagged, (3) implementation of new inner city high school outreach components, to enhance the early pipeline, (4) implementation of new grantsmanship elements, to better prepare students and boost confidence, (5) establishment of one-on-one mentor partnerships with external URM faculty, to facilitate mentoring and support beyond the PhD Program, and (6) implementation of an inter-institutional IMSD speaker exchange program, to increase exposure of senior Fellows and help match them with highly active research scientists at supportive institutions.
The overall goal of the IMSD Graduate Fellows Program at UMBC is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the biomedical and behavioral sciences who earn PhD degrees and obtain leadership and research positions in academics, government, and industry. Our proposed program is anticipated to grow to ~ 80 supported IMSD Fellows per year and produce at least 15 URM PhD graduates annually. New components should enable the graduates to compete more effectively for federal research grants, to make informed postdoctoral choices, and to more confidently pursue leadership positions in industry, government, and academics.
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