The goal of this education proposal is to encourage and prepare underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in neuroscience. This will be accomplished by making the undergraduate neuroscience minor at Wake Forest University (WFU), a private liberal arts university available to students at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), a historically black institution. Both schools are located in Winston-Salem, NC. Although there are several active research neuroscientists at WSSU, the WSSU curriculum contains no neuroscience-related courses. WSSU students, therefore, have little training in neuroscience when it comes time to choose an area for postgraduate study. This cooperative arrangement (UNTRAC: Undergraduate Neuroscience Training Cooperative) builds on a developing relationship in the life sciences between WFU and WSSU. UNTRAC is novel, however, in its focus on undergraduates interested in neuroscience.
The specific aims of the present proposal are to: (1) provide extensive neuroscience background information and education to underrepresented minority students from WSSU through courses taken to satisfy the undergraduate neuroscience minor at WFU. (2) make available research opportunities for WSSU students with neuroscientists at WFU, WSSU, or the WFU School of Medicine. (At least one semester of research is required for completion of the neuroscience minor for all students.) (3) allow WSSU students to experience the excitement and possibilities of graduate work in neuroscience by pairing them with graduate student mentors from the WFU Neuroscience Program and having them attend a Society for Neuroscience Meeting. (4) train a postdoctoral fellow for a career in teaching and research. The postdoctoral fellow will assist faculty with coordination of neuroscience courses and perform research in the laboratory of a WSSU neuroscientist. (5) develop a program of evaluation of student progress that permits meaningful tracking of all students taking the neuroscience minor at WFU. This opportunity will clearly assist WSSU undergraduates already interested in the field of neuroscience. But another vital aspect of this program will be enhancement of the visibility of neuroscience on the WSSU campus. We therefore expect to recruit students new to neuroscience to this program and, ultimately to careers related to neuroscience. We will also be helping a neuroscience researcher at WSSU progress in his/her career by providing a postdoctoral fellow to work in their research laboratory.
Underrepresentation of minorities in the biomedical sciences, especially neuroscience is well-documented. If the scientific community continues to neglect underrepresented minority students, the applicant pool for the replacement of the scientific work force will be limited and the talents of a significant proportion of the population will be underutilized. The goal of this education proposal is to encourage and prepare underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in neuroscience.