This application focuses upon conveying the enthusiasm of scientific discovery to undergraduates representing those groups who are underrepresented in the health care workforce. Such students are virtually absent from "short-term" research exposure programs during their college careers. By providing students a hands-on research opportunity at the Penn State University (PSU) in the context of the foundational missions of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), it is our goal to pique student curiosity about the biosciences and to instill in them the confidence to explore postgraduate pathways leading to productive careers in the health and bioscience fields. Our program, termed PSU INTREPID (Introduction of a Novel Tiered Research Experience Promoting Inclusion and Diversity), will gradually immerse minority students into the research arena in year one at the College of Medicine, where they will be provided with hands-on laboratory experiences during the eight weeks of guided instruction. The program will consist of didactic modalities including human simulators, bench-top experiments, research projects, computer data mining, and others;moreover, the students, who will work in teams of two and explore the four subject areas (heart, blood, lung and sleep), will develop a network of mentors who will support the students through the two years of the program and beyond. Once confident in their laboratory skills and introduced to the subject of responsible conduct of research, the students will perform the second tier of their research training at University Park, where they will conduct a specific research program tailored to their interests. The PSU Summer Symposium and other forms of scientific support (breakout sessions, mini-lectures, and seminars) will be available in tier two as deemed necessary. The third tier will correspond to the creation of a support network of mentors extending beyond the INTREPID laboratory years that will aid interested students in the matriculation into postgraduate programs. It will also be important to determine whether other novel elements of the programs are of merit. These include (1) the application of simulation in concert with teaching/instructive modalities in year one;(2) the provision of two distinct venues in year one (medical school) and year two (university/college town);(3) the creation of an extended mentoring network;(4) the close partnership between Penn State and two local HBCU (Historically Black College/University) partners;(5) the creation of a career pathways network beginning with local high schools, extending to the HBCUs and local universities, and passing through the INTREPID program and on to postgraduate programs at both PSU and other research-intensive universities;and finally, (6) the generation of a partnership with both the PA Department of Health, Office of Health Equity, and the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Company of PA, representatives of which will inform the trainees of health career opportunities.
The Penn State University will provide eight minority undergraduate students with two, successive eight-week summer research experiences. Students will undergo gradual exposure to discovery science in year one (at the College of Medicine) through the focus upon concept strengthening and skill development via hands-on experimentation;this will be followed in year two by independent research in dynamic laboratories at University Park. The hypothesis that will be tested is that by gradual immersion, accompanied by strong and extended mentorship, minority students will better develop an interest to pursue careers in health infrequently considered as viable future options, and thus, level the diversity imbalance extant in the current workforce.