Many students from minority populations or disadvantaged backgrounds are underrepresented in PhD-level biomedical research, perhaps having decided not to enter PhD programs because they either lack academic preparation or fail to self-identify as research scientists. The goal of PREP at UC Davis (PREP@UCD) is to provide such students with the research, communication, analytical, and life skills required to excel in doctoral programs in the biomedical sciences. The University of California, Davis, has a broad base of biomedical research funded by the NIH, is committed to diversity through a host of campus-wide academic and cultural initiatives, and is dedicated to enriching undergraduate and graduate student education in the biomedical sciences, making it an ideal institution to host a PREP program. Moreover, UC Davis is actively pursuing status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). Up to eight PREP scholars annually will participate in research (75%) and career development activities (25%) under the close guidance of a mentorship team consisting of research supervisors, a faculty advisor, the PI, and the program coordinator.
Three specific aims are proposed to prepare PREP@UCD scholars for biomedical graduate programs. First, PREP will provide a mentored research environment where the scholars can develop their self-image as scientists. A recent study of PREP scholars found that success in graduate school requires that the student self-identifies as a scientist; spending a year performing individual, hypothesis-driven research will provide PREP@UCD scholars with the opportunity to do so. Second, PREP@UCD scholars will be trained in experimental skills and mentored in an active research laboratory. An individualized research prospectus will capture a hypothesis and line of research to expose the scholar to a variety of scientific approaches. Laboratory activities, academic coursework, training workshops and symposia will develop skills for gathering scientific information, working in a team, solving problems critically, and assessing research ethics and values. Third, PREP@UCD scholars will develop strong academic written and oral communication skills. Each scholar will spend 25% of his or her effort in preparing documents for graduate applications in biomedical sciences; enrolling in one senior-level course per quarter for enrichment; presenting research findings in poster and PowerPoint formats; participating in journal clubs to gain exposure to scientific literature and discourse; attending regional and national scientific conferences to network with other scholars; and participating in professional development workshops to prepare for the rigors of graduate school and career options beyond the PhD. It is expected that at least 75% of scholars will enter prestigious graduate programs upon completion of the PREP@UCD program. Moreover, the skills and scientific self-identity fostered during PREP@UCD will provide the scholars with a better chance of excelling in biomedical PhD or MD/PhD programs.
The long-term goal of PREP@UCD is to increase diversity in the biomedical science workforce. Broadening inclusion will lead to diverse perspectives and scientific approaches, which is expected to build capacity for scientific breakthroughs with positive implications for biotechnological and public health outcomes.