The current proposal is to support a Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) in Molecular and Developmental Neurobiology mentored by UMDNJ/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers University research faculty. The program has three primary goals: (1) To increase student knowledge and appreciation of basic biological research by providing a closely-mentored, hands-on research experience;(2) To increase student knowledge and interest in pursuing careers in research through career development and educational activities;(3) To provide continued advice, support and guidance to program alumni to facilitate post-program career planning and implementation. Twelve undergraduates will be admitted to our program each year beginning 2013. Special consideration will be given to students from economically and/or socially disadvantaged backgrounds including under-represented minority applicants, first-generation college students, and those with limited research experience or opportunities at their present colleges to generate a deep and diverse pool of potential future scientists. The research component of the proposed SURP involves hands-on experimentation in labs with active, nationally recognized and federally funded research programs in Molecular and Developmental Neurobiology on the Busch Campus of UMDNJ/RWJMS and Rutgers Universities. The infrastructure and general organization of the proposed NIH Summer Research Experience program will be based on an existing program that has been in place for 16 years. Students will work on their own independent research projects involving cutting-edge molecular, genetic and genomic approaches under the close guidance and supervision of mentors, postdocs or senior graduate students in their host labs. The proposed SURP is designed to integrate student research experiences and mentoring with career development and also includes training in research ethics. Student activities include weekly meetings attended by scientists from our campus and from the professional community to discuss their education and careers including traditional and non-traditional paths. Each year students will present the results of their summer research projects in a symposium that is open to scientists on campus and members of the general public. Several of the mentors who will be supervising the students study mental disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, autism, and schizophrenia. The multidisciplinary research focus of the other faculty mentors on the cellular, molecular, and genetic processes underlying developmental and degeneration of the nervous system also has implications for the etiology, pathogenesis and progression of mental disorders, many of which have developmental origins.
The development, regulation, and maintenance of neural circuits are essential for normal brain function. The multidisciplinary training efforts of our faclty working with undergraduate student participants will focus on disorders including major depression, bipolar disorder, autism, schizophrenia, and neurodegeneration which are of clear relevance to NIMH.