To compete in today's global, high-tech economy, we are becoming more dependent on workers and leaders prepared in STEM fields;however, national studies indicate that too few American students have the requisite knowledge and skills in science and mathematics to participate fully in today's economy. We are falling behind in the global race for human capital development. The United States trails sixteen countries in Europe and Asia in the proportion of each country's college population who earn degrees in science and engineering (PCAST, 2010). This proposal seeks funding to support The Scripps Research Institute's Health-Related Research Experiences for Undergraduates (H-REU Program) - a program that creates a dynamic and stimulating educational and research environment, provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research in a laboratory, and inspires them to choose STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.
The specific aims of the program parallel the goals articulated in the NHLBI Short-Term Research Education Program to Increase Diversity in Health-Related Research (R25) announcement. We seek to: (1) develop a partnership with schools and organizations that target underrepresented and underserved students;(2) increase the number of students who consider careers in the biomedical research field;(2) provide research opportunities in cutting-edge health-related laboratories and mentoring opportunities with world-renowned scientists;and (3) increase the interns'proficiency in communicating scientific concepts and comfort level in the laboratory setting. The H-REU Program offers its participants an academic structure that integrates hands-on laboratory research with professional skills development and mentoring. The program consists of a ten-week enriched summer research experience and a mentorship with Scripps Research faculty and scientists. Each of the major program components, curriculum and professional development workshops and research experiences is made up of several elements that work together and provide a stepwise, scaffolding approach to improving interns'critical thinking skills, scientific preparation, knowledge base, and research expertise. By providing this experience, we hope to create a feeder pipeline and encourage the most talented students to pursue careers in biomedical research;however, those who do not become researchers will benefit by applying learned perspectives and honed professional skills to their future educational endeavors. Given its importance, STEM literacy must be a part of the educational foundation of all students no matter their future educational endeavors.
The complexity of human biology requires diverse approaches to understanding, treating, and preventing common diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity that disproportionately affect underrepresented and underserved populations, and the H-REU exposes students to research in these fields. The most successful approaches must include a team of scientists who are ethnically diverse and can engage in a symbiotic relationship with the community it serves. The Scripps Research Institute has developed a program, the Summer Undergraduate Research in Health-Related Fields (SURH) Program, which will provide students, particularly from underserved populations, with training in health-related research and inspire them to consider a career in the STEM fields.