The University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) proposes to identify, provide financial support, and train a total of 20 students from groups dramatically underrepresented in the biomedical sciences in order to prepare them to successfully enter and complete a Ph.D. program in a biomedical or biomedical-related discipline at MU or any other highly competitive research-intensive institution. This proposal presents a coordinated plan to strengthen the research, academic, and personal interaction skills of promising and talented baccalaureate graduates by immersing each Scholar in an independent research project with a faculty mentor and providing a coordinated academic and personal support system. Specific MU PREP components include: design and completion of an independent research project;strong research mentoring by committed faculty, aided by prior training of faculty mentors;training in responsible conduct of research and scientific expression;training in critical thinking and analysis;peer and group mentoring;practice writing and critiquing papers and grant applications;and presentation of their research results at national/international meetings in the discipline. PREP Scholars should thus begin their Ph.D. programs with advanced research skills, with a faculty and peer mentoring system in place, with connections to a broader discipline beyond MU, and with lasting friendships with other graduate students in the life sciences. The MU PREP program will be carefully coordinated with MU's high school, undergraduate and Ph.D. programs for underrepresented students thereby advancing MU's comprehensive effort to increase the number of scholars from underrepresented populations in the biomedical sciences. Successful parts of this program will be institutionalized and disseminated as a model for other institutions.
The MU PREP, because of the departments and mentors involved, will have a natural focus on research training in areas that will address major health problems in the U.S. (e.g. cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity). Of particular interest are health problems that disproportionately affect portions of the U.S. population. This will hopefully lead to greater interest in and research on those health problems at MU, and to a larger number of biomedical researchers working on those problems when our PREP Scholars, and the colleagues they influence, join the biomedical workforce.