The goal of the NIMG R25 program is to support educational activities that complement and/or enhance the training of a workforce to meet the nation's biomedical, behavioral and clinical research needs. This funding opportunity encourages activities and outreach programs with a primary focus on courses for skills development, structured mentoring activities, and outreach programs to create a highly skilled and diverse workforce. A major challenge facing the toxicology profession is a lack of a diversified workforce. Although the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has recognized this problem for many years and indeed has tried to address it through different funding mechanisms, the number of underrepresented minorities in the toxicology profession remains disappointingly low. One of the shortcomings of recruiting undergraduates into the toxicology graduate research programs is a lack of undergraduate toxicology training programs in the country. Toxicology is taught starting at graduate level. Because of lack of awareness and knowledge about the discipline and its role in the protection of human, animal, and environmental health, undergraduates with interest in pursuing graduate education naturally will not consider it as an option. Iowa State University in Ames, IA is collaborating with Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL to create a one-year long proof-of-concept undergraduate toxicology mentoring and skills development training program. There are two specific aims for the program.
Specific Aim #1 : Development and delivery of a mentoring program to the best and brightest underrepresented undergraduate students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The program will recruit 30 mentees per year and match them 1:1 with mentors from industry and government. This will expose mentees to real world experiences. Mentoring will consist of face-to-face activities.
Specific Aim #2 : Development and delivery of an online course consisting of short modules. The innovative flexible course will be accessible on mobile devices as well as from computers and will be open to the public 24/7. Expected outcomes of this unique training program include: a) building a pipeline of undergraduate students who will go on to join toxicology research graduate programs, and ultimately the workforce; b) because skills imparted through this program apply to broader biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research enterprise, students who successfully complete this program will be an asset in other areas of research interest to the NIH; and c) the online course consisting of short modules, which will be open to the general public, will be a significant outreach program. This is a unique and highly innovative mentoring and training program that will likely have a huge positive impact of creating a pipeline of underrepresented minorities in STEM subjects entering graduate school and ultimately the workforce. A future plan is to expand enrolment and open up the program to other Historically Black Colleges and Universities, historically Hispanic colleges and universities and historically Chicano and Native American Universities.
There is a critical lack of underrepresented minorities in the nation's biomedical, behavioral and clinical workforce. Iowa State University and Tuskegee University have conceived a unique Toxicology Mentoring and Skills development Training program targeting undergraduate underrepresented minorities in order to increase the pool of minorities entering graduate school pipeline and ultimately the toxicology workforce. Toxicology, a multidisciplinary field, has a critical need to increase the number of minorities in its workforce. African Americans and other socially disadvantaged groups experience higher exposure to environmental toxicants and, because of genetic differences, response to toxicants is sometimes different. The nation will benefit most from a diverse toxicology work force in solving these health-related issues. This training program will contribute towards reaching that goal.