Undergraduate students can be attracted to science by engaging in research. A summer experience as an apprentice in a scientist's laboratory or clinic may be effective in this regard, but short-term research may fail to provide the preparation necessary to progress into PhD programs in fields such as neuroscience. The BP- ENDURE-Atlanta project led by Georgia State University (GSU) in partnership with Agnes Scott College (ASC), Emory University, and Spelman College, will provide a two-year neuroscience research immersion and integration program for students from underrepresented groups. Program evaluation will test the hypothesis that in-depth research training, coupled with an intensive professional development workshop series, will positively affect participants'communication skills and confidence with research abilities, and will increase rates of matriculation into neuroscience PhD programs. Identification of a reliable approach to developing the skills and confidence necessary to progress into PhD programs will enable more students from various backgrounds to pursue their interests in science, and will ultimately increase diversity in the US scientific workforce.
Specific Aim 1 is to engage undergraduates from underrepresented groups in research and training, using a two-year program for junior and senior undergraduates that includes five major components: 1) a research immersion in Atlanta's well-established BRAIN summer program;2) a Research Assistantship in the first academic year;3) a Travel Assistantship to conduct research at a partner T32 training program in the second summer;4) a Capstone Research Assistantship during the second academic year;and 5) an intensive professional development workshop series.
Specific Aim 2 is to test the hypothesis that this neuroscience research program will positively affect scientific communication skills and confidence with research abilities among undergraduates, thereby raising rates of matriculation into neuroscience PhD programs. By conducting hypothesis-driven science education research, this project will fill a gap in current knowledge about how best to encourage and prepare students to help address biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research needs, with a focus on students from underrepresented groups. By publishing results in peer-reviewed journals targeting different subpopulations in the scientific community, we will extend beyond the norm of many training programs in terms of contributing to best practices in science education.
The BP-ENDURE-Atlanta Program uses authentic neuroscience research experience coupled with professional development workshops to maximize student outcomes, i.e. scientific communication skills and science self-efficacy, as well as diversity outcomes, i.e. students from underrepresented groups matriculating into PhD programs. Increased diversity in the scientific workforce will ultimately diversify the types of questions posed in scientific research, emphasizing topics related to public health disparities, and broadening interpretations and applications of research results. Program evaluation reveals how best to encourage and prepare students to help address biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research needs.