We request renewal of our successful interdisciplinary Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program for pre-doctoral (graduate) and pre-baccalaureate (undergraduate) students from groups underrepresented in careers in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. Our training program is a partnership with departments and interdisciplinary graduate programs which takes advantage of Virginia Tech's (VT) history of excellence in Engineering and the Behavioral and Life Sciences. With lessons learned in the last four years, we will focus on recruiting and training scholars in five core research programs in which VT excels, including: 1. Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology;2. Biomedical Engineering;3. Behavioral/Psychological Sciences;4. Microbiological Sciences;and 5. Molecular and Cellular Biology. Our student-driven pre-doctoral IMSD program will continue to be a partnership with departments and interdisciplinary programs. Doctoral Scholars recruited into the training program will participate in activities that include lab rotations, foundation courses, seminars, and peer mentoring (as mentee in the first two years and mentor the last 2-3 years). The Scholars also will participate in VT's much-acclaimed "Transformative Graduate Education" program that includes courses like "Preparing the Future Professoriate", "GTA Workshop", and "Citizen Scholar Seminar." These programs will provide opportunities for scholars to develop skill sets that include research, oral and writtn communication, effective grant and scientific writing, and surviving the challenges in a doctoral program and ultimately a biomedical research career. In addition to engaging in programs in fulfillment of their degree requirements, the scholars will participate in scientific and enrichmen activities that include a bi-weekly IMSD forum, a weekly program area seminar, a monthly multicultural assembly, and an annual research symposium. The undergraduate IMSD program, a partnership with the Office of Undergraduate Research in the Office of the Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education, will have two components: a non-stipend Pre- IMSD that will involve freshmen and sophomores in diverse majors, and the IMSD-prebac (Undergraduate) program that will recruit and provide stipend support for juniors and seniors. Freshmen and sophomores in the Pre-IMSD program will receive academic advice on course selection that adequately prepares them for a sustained research experience. Pre-IMSD students will take electives that include a laboratory course and statistics and they will be encouraged to volunteer in the labs of IMSD faculty. The IMSD Undergraduate (prebac) Scholars will learn basic lab skills and culture, participate in independent research (including development of their independent research proposal), be expected to carry out data analysis, take developmental and experiential classes as electives including grant writing, discipline-specific seminars, and give poster and oral presentations of their research results at local and national conferences. Additionally, using approaches perfected in the current cycle, each IMSD Undergraduate Scholar will be assisted with the Graduate School application process including GRE preparation, contacting potential program directors, seeking fee waivers, writing the candidate statement, and preparing for interviews. Undergraduate Scholars will participate in scientific and enrichment activities with the doctoral scholars (forum, seminar, assembly and research symposium). Specific overall measurable objectives of the proposed VT-IMSD program include: 1. Recruit and enroll a total of 25 pre-doctoral (graduate) and 30 pre-baccalaureate (undergraduate) minority students, underrepresented in the behavioral and biomedical sciences, to participate in a training program as research scholars during a five-year period. We anticipate retention of 100% of the graduate and more than 75% of the undergrad scholars;2. Develop and implement activities and programs that will enrich and motivate scholars as well as facilitate the pursuit of a research career in the behavioral and biomedical sciences and engineering. 3. Increase the number of minority students applying for and being accepted into graduate studies in behavioral and biomedical sciences and engineering and related disciplines at VT while improving the campus climate for diversity. Achieving these three aims is facilitated by VT's pledges in the "Principles of Community" and a total commitment of the University Administration and Departmental Leaders and the Board of Visitors to create a welcoming environment for all students, especially minorities. Consistent with this principle, the VT administration provided extensive financial support for our current IMSD. This support which will continue if the renewal is funded includes support for recruitment and IMSD forums that bring in outside speakers. We are confident that our IMSD scholars will develop a set of skills needed for excellence in research, communication, scientific presentations and surviving graduate school. These skills and experiences will enhance scholar preparation for pursuing careers in biomedical and behavioral sciences and engineering. Our confidence in this program also is based on the track record of the PD and Co-PDs, as well as that of faculty mentors, in training future scientists including those from underrepresented groups.
The IMSD will continue to develop underrepresented minorities at the undergraduate and graduate levels so they can acquire skills needed to succeed in Ph.D. programs and biomedical and behavioral research including interdisciplinary research, critical thinking, monitoring and advising, networking and presentation skills. These activities continue to positively impact the number of minorities who graduate from Virginia Tech, a university with traditional strengths in agricultural and life sciences and engineering, to go on to pursue biomedical or behavioral research, which is a major goal of the PHS.
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