The Virginia Commonwealth University Post baccalaureate Research Education Program (VCU-PREP) will prepare underrepresented minority (URM) scholars for highly competitive doctoral programs in the biomedical sciences, through specific aims and measurable objectives.
In Aim 1, 45 applicants (with at least a 2.8 undergraduate GPA) will be identified and annually recruited for 9 slots in the VCU-PREP program. Acceptable candidates will be academically competent, but lack the preparation for admission to the nation's most competitive Ph.D. programs. VCU-PREP candidates will be recruited from the Ph.D. applicant pools of VCU and partner institutions. Additionally, recruitment will be done through interactions with faculty at partner Minority Serving Institutions, where academically qualified students are less likely to have research experience. Finally, we will recruit VCU-PREP candidates from our NIH-funded, URM undergraduate summer research programs, STEP-UP (NIDDK) and HERO (NHLBI). These direct outreach activities will be complemented by disseminating information on the VCU-PREP website, and recruitment at national meetings such as the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students.
In Aim 2, VCU-PREP Scholars will participate in an intensive, positive mentored research experience. Each VCU-PREP Scholar will be matched with a highly qualified VCU faculty mentor, based on the Scholar's research interests. Selection of VCU-PREP Mentors is based on their level of peer-reviewed external funding, and an excellent record of training and mentoring success. Expected outcomes for VCU-PREP Scholars include presentations at VCU research symposia and national scientific meetings, with a published manuscript as an ultimate goal. Additionally, VCU-PREP Scholars will participate in weekly journal clubs.
In Aim 3, VCU-PREP Scholars will be provided with an individualized program for academic enhancement. VCU Scholars will be trained in scientific writing, and will submit regular written research updates for critique. They will have formal training in GRE test-taking, and participate in workshops on Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills, Graduate School Admission, and Career/Professional Development. VCU-PREP Scholars will participate in 2 graduate course(s) selected by the Scholar, Program Directors, and Research Mentor, and will take a 1-credit course in Scientific Integrity.
In Aim 4, a rigorous evaluation and tracking system will be implemented for longitudinal follow-up of VCU-PREP Scholars and VCU URM doctoral students. We expect this training to result in a 100% acceptance rate of VCU-PREP Scholars into competitive doctoral programs, with at least 80% transition to highly competitive doctoral programs, and at least 80% persistence to degree.
Biomedical research drives the future of medicine, as new discoveries provide understanding of and treatments for disease. There are clear disparities in the number of underrepresented individuals who become biomedical researchers. The Virginia Commonwealth University Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (VCU-PREP) will prepare underrepresented minority scholars for highly competitive doctoral programs in the biomedical sciences, providing a pipeline for increased numbers of underrepresented researchers.