The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) in Bar Harbor, Maine, proposes a summer research internship for four students per year from underrepresented groups to pursue research projects in bioinformatics, under the mentorship of investigators of the NHGRI-funded Mouse Genome Database (MGD). The proposed Diversity Action Plan (DAP) seeks funding to continue this successful program for four more years, with a goal of encouraging underrepresented students to pursue advanced degrees and careers in genomics-related fields. MGD is regarded as the international scientific community database for mouse, providing high quality, integrated information that supports the translation of the mouse experimental system to the study of human biology and disease. The four MGD DAP bioinformatics interns will be an integral part of the existing JAX Summer Student Program (SSP), an internationally recognized residential research experience that has mentored more than 2,000 undergraduates and high school students since 1924. This established JAX program annually hosts 30- 40 students who are selected through a competitive nationwide application process. The SSP has a proven track record of underrepresented minority (Hispanic, African American, Native American, and Pacific Islander/Hawaiian) participation, an institutional mandate which is achieved through targeted recruiting nationwide, the SSP website, and alumni networking. In 2011, 11 (29%) of the 38 SSP participants were underrepresented minorities, and 17 (45%) of the 38 participants were members of underrepresented groups including minorities and first-generation college students or the economically disadvantaged. Four minority SSP students in 2011 pursued bioinformatics projects through a Minority Action Plan (MAP) supplement to our MGD grant (HG000330). Each student receives a weekly stipend, subsistence allotment, and travel assistance that enables them to forgo summer jobs and participate in this life-changing experience. In addition to training in hands-on computational and laboratory work, proposal writing and results presentation, and solid grounding in research ethics and the humane treatment of lab animals, all SSP participants lodge together in a 40-room residence and share abundant social and recreational activities. The JAX SSP--supported by institutional funds, private foundations, and federal grants--has well-established administrative procedures for diversity recruitment and selection, mentor guidance, and program design, management, and evaluation. The Training Coordinator for the proposed DAP will pursue bioinformatics-specific diversity recruitment, support intern training, and track program alumni during their subsequent career development. The DAP Principal Investigator will oversee all DAP planning and implementation, including mentor guidance and program administration. JAX offers a stimulating environment in which motivated, talented undergraduates from diverse backgrounds can learn the fundamentals of scientific inquiry, contribute to research progress, and make great strides in intellectual and personal growth that will guide them in career choices and lifelong learning.
The proposed summer internship in bioinformatics will offer students the opportunity to contribute to real research progress through mentored projects within the NHGRI-funded Mouse Genome Database (MGD) program at JAX, which facilitates use of the mouse as a model system to enable new discoveries in human medicine. With an emphasis on recruiting students from underrepresented groups, the program will help plant the seeds for future diversity in the scientific, medical, and education workforces. Its alumni will be science ambassadors with a solid grounding in ethics, an appreciation for the challenges and promises of basic human disease research, and zeal to share their love of science for the benefit of society.