Virginia Tech (VT) requests renewal of its successful Post-Baccalaureate Research and Education Program (VT-PREP) for another five years to recruit and prepare a total of 40 scholars for admission into competitive and highly selective biomedical and behavioral sciences doctoral programs at research-intensive universities. In our third funded cycle, encompassing 2012/13-2017, 88% of our trainees who completed the PREP program (23/26) matriculated into Ph.D. programs. Our unique and impactful research and education program plan includes distinct activities that target three overlapping phases of each trainee?s tenure, which we define as the ?moving in,? ?moving through,? and ?moving out? phases. During the ?moving in? phase, 8 trainees ?who need a PREP? will be recruited and assigned to mentors using our proven strategy that is ?scholar-driven? and combines mentor qualities such as prior experience, which has resulted in a 98% retention for each of our 3 funding cycles. Based on lessons learned during the current cycle, the moving in phase will begin on June 1 for all trainees for each cohort, allowing the students to have adequate time to acclimate to Virginia Tech and the program before the start of classes in August. During the ?moving through? phase, each trainee will develop and participate in an individualized plan that includes a combination of foundational and fundamental courses (if needed), and skill development, including research, presentation, writing/speaking, networking, and leadership. If needed, trainees will be assigned a peer mentor with experience in the graduate school application process. Trainees will also participate in biweekly forums to hear speakers describe their career paths and research, biweekly cohort lunch networking interactions to ?check in with the staff, and biweekly individual meetings to check on their progress in their schooling/research and in identifying schools to apply to, so that they can smoothly enter the ?moving out? phase.
Specific aims for this renewal include: 1. Recruit and enroll 40 scholars (8 in each cohort) to participate in a PREP that has unparalleled success and follows a proven and impactful approach; 2. Engage trainees in activities and programs that will enrich and motivate them to pursue a research career in the biomedical sciences; 3. Increase the number of minority students applying for and being accepted into graduate studies in biomedical, behavioral, life science, and related disciplines at VT, improving the campus climate for diversity; and 4. Increase our outreach and connection with our alumni, so that we can continue to assist in their development and growth as well as offer them opportunities to impact the development and placement of our scholars. The stable and experienced leadership of our PREP, as well as our very impactful approach, has not only helped us matriculate more than 85% of our trainees, but also contributes to the completion of the Ph.D. by our alumni, which currently is at 31 PhDs with 5 assistant professors.

Public Health Relevance

The Virginia Tech Post-Baccalaureate Research and Education Program (VT-PREP) will continue to develop and train underrepresented minorities in acquiring skills needed to succeed in biomedical and behavioral sciences Ph.D. programs. Skills attained include interdisciplinary research, critical thinking, mentoring and advising, networking, and presentation skills (writing and communication). These activities continue to positively impact the number of minorities who go on to receive Ph.D.s and to subsequently pursue careers in biomedical or behavioral research, a major goal of the PHS.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Education Projects (R25)
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NIGMS Initial Review Group (TWD)
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Cubano, Luis Angel
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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Veterinary Sciences
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United States
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