The Virginia Commonwealth University Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (VCU-PREP) will prepare underrepresented students for highly competitive doctoral programs in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, through specific aims and measurable objectives.
In Aim 1, 5 qualified applicants (with an undergraduate GPA greater than 3.0) will be recruited annually for each of 7 positions in VCU-PREP. Acceptable candidates will be academically competent, but may lack the research preparation and/or rigorous academic coursework for admission to the nation's most competitive PhD programs. VCU-PREP candidates will be recruited through our website and through interactions with faculty at partner Minority Serving Institutions, where academically qualified students are less likely to have extensive research experience. Additionally, recruitment will be achieved from the applicant pools of VCU PhD programs. These direct outreach activities will be complemented by recruitment through the dissemination of program information at national meetings, such as the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS).
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 peer-reviewed external funding and publication records, 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.
In Aim 3, VCU-PREP Scholars will be provided with an individualized program for academic enhancement. They will have one-on-one training in oral communication and scientific writing. VCU-PREP students will have formal instruction in GRE test-taking, and participate in workshops on Quantitative Skills, Graduate School Admission, and Career/Professional Development. Students will participate in an interactive journal club to develop Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills. VCU-PREP Scholars will take courses to prepare them for graduate school, selected by the Scholar, Program Directors, and Research Mentor, and will have training in the responsible conduct of research.
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 VCU PREP training to result in the transition of 75% of scholars to highly competitive doctoral programs, and at least 80% persistence to degree.

Public Health Relevance

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.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Education Projects (R25)
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Bender, Michael T
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Virginia Commonwealth University
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