Biomedical research is expanding rapidly in the US;however, minorities continue to be underrepresented in this workforce. While the TIMSS and other tests show that US students are greatly improving their academic preparedness compared to students from most other nations, minority students have not shown such academic gains. The net result is that minority and underserved students remain relatively poorly prepared to enter high technology careers such as biomedical and behavioral sciences. The result is that minorities who constitute about 29% of the total population, represent only about 7% of PhD degrees in biomedical and behavioral science and hold only about 4% of R01 biomedical and behavioral research grants. Many underserved students lack early engagement, and even when they become interested in biomedical research careers, they lack the opportunities to develop skills and content knowledge to move into 4-year baccalaureate programs leading to biomedical or behavioral research careers. Blazing to Biomedical Careers (BBC) will join the forces of two community colleges and the University of Alabama at Birmingham to provide students graduating from high school who are headed to community colleges with internships that will introduce them to the opportunities and promises of biomedical and behavioral research careers before entering their community college. A second internship will occur the summer before their 2nd year at the community college. The program will also offer advanced coursework in biomedical research during their two years in community college, thus preparing the students for the rigors of advanced coursework at UAB. The students will be paid for their summer research and for research learning opportunities during the two school years. Once in their first year at UAB (juniors), those students who are performing well in their academic biomedical curriculum will be recruited to serve as mentors to BBC students still in their first two years at community college. Other underrepresented junior and senior undergraduates and some graduate students will be similarly recruited to serve as facilitators for high school students at UAB's GENEius lab, thus becoming role models for potential new BBC cohorts. Finally, the program will provide counseling and an educational program for BBC students who realize they are not destined for PI/PD status, but who want careers in the biomedical research field. The Broader impact of BBC will be to create a new cadre of underrepresented individuals in biomedical research. The Intellectual merit will be to test methods to engage and prepare underrepresented students for careers in biomedical and behavioral research. This will be especially important, in that the two community colleges are very different in their student population and thus the assessment will shed light on what methods work best for which populations.
Blazing to Biomedical Careers (BBC) will greatly facilitate the transition of community college students into biomedical and behavioral education at the undergraduate and graduate university level, and advance these students into careers in biomedical and behavioral sciences, some as research leaders and others as major support staff. BBC will focus on underrepresented individuals in these fields, especially on African-American Hispanic and rural underserved students and will provide paid research internships for the students before each year of community college education that will help them to master the science content and skills that they will need in their college preparation. The Intellectual Merit of this project will be to enhance the student pipeline to biomedical and behavioral research careers and provide up-to-date knowledge and skills in science content and skills.