This is a new R25 application requesting support for the Neuroscience Roadmap Scholars Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Although the number of U.S. citizens from underrepresented minority (URM) groups earning doctoral degrees in science has increased over the past decade, URMs continue to represent a small proportion of the scientists in the United States. UAB is uniquely positioned to support the training of diverse group of trainees. Evidence of this readiness is the significant (36%) undergraduate enrollment of URM students, predominantly African American, given our location in the Southeastern US. In addition, UAB is the home for several students with disabilities at the undergraduate and graduate levels (approximately 400). Importantly, there are several programs already in place, such as the Office of Equity and Diversity, the Comprehensive Neuroscience Center, and the focus on Neuroscience in the School of Medicine Strategic Plan serve as a firm footing for the development of a program targeting diversity in Neuroscience. The Comprehensive Neuroscience Center functions as the epicenter for the Neurosciences on UAB campus and will be the home of the Neuroscience Roadmap Scholars Program. The CNC has a membership of approximately 365 members, with faculty from 11 basic science and clinical departments from 5 Schools. Since 2010, 89 new faculty have been recruited across several neuroscience-related departments and the number of students from diverse backgrounds applying to the Neuroscience Theme graduate program represents 27% of the domestic applicant pool in 2014. Our proposed Neuroscience Roadmap Scholars Program will target the obstacles impeding success with the goal of attracting an increased number of diversity trainees to neuroscience research and providing them with the necessary tools and skills early in their PhD careers which are essential to making this a life-long career choice. The specific "value added" components of the Neuroscience Roadmap Scholars Program include the annual southeast regional NEURAL (National Enhancement of Under-Represented Academic Leaders) summer conference, interactions with Career Coaches (separate from the scholar's Research mentor), Peer-to peer mentoring and undergraduate mentees, and distinct extracurricular activities. As the UAB SOM and office of Diversity and Equity have focused on diversity in the neurosciences as an area for major investment with $414,000 in stipend support and $20 million towards strategic planning over the next five years, the future of the Neuroscience Roadmap Scholars Program is secure and it will benefit substantially from this investment with the addition of talented and qualified academic leaders. The result should be an increase in the number and quality of both applicants and matriculating students from a diverse background at UAB in neuroscience at the graduate level, with a positive impact at the undergraduate, postdoctoral and faculty levels as well.
The goal of the Neuroscience Roadmap Scholars Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is to enhance and broaden the representation of qualified and talented underrepresented neuroscience investigators at the national level. This program will provide outstanding educational support for a diverse group of next generation scholars to increase the pipeline of future academic leaders in the neurosciences.