In the last decade, due to Congressional budget cuts, NIH funding for biomedical research has plummeted despite a growing public health need. Beyond the obvious effect of this reduction on the productivity of research labs, this funding climate likely dissuades undergraduate students from pursuing careers in biomedical research. This effect will be particularly deleterious to the study and understanding of chronic neurologic disease, an area of growing concern.
We aim to counteract this possibility by supporting specialized summer undergraduate research experiences in pain and neurodegenerative disease. The rationale for this proposal is that by strengthening undergraduate research programs in neurologic disease, we can begin to build a pipeline of skilled researchers to respond to increasing rates of neurodegenerative diseases as our population ages. This proposal aims to develop and continue to implement two synergistic biomedical research programs. These new programs, the Pain Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) and Neurodegenerative Undergraduate Research Experience (NURE), are cross-disciplinary and community- engaged biomedical summer undergraduate research programs. The objective of the PURE and NURE summer program is to increase student understanding of and exposure to the underlying science of pain and neurodegeneration, and importantly, to offer a more complete and authentic experience, by bridging basic science research with opportunities for students to interact on- and off-site with clinical researchers. 12 (six per program) rising sophomores and above will be recruited each summer for a 10-week long PURE or NURE session. We anticipate recruiting students from a variety of undergraduate majors including biology, chemistry, biochemistry, pre-physical therapy, pre-occupational therapy, pre-pharmacy, neuroscience, physics, computer science, and biomedical engineering. [We aim to include a diverse population of students by recruiting nationally from large research universities, historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and regionally from low research and primarily undergraduate institutions.]
The Pain and Neurodegenerative Undergraduate Research Experiences are designed to improve the treatment of all diseases involving chronic pain and neurodegeneration. By providing an enriched biomedical research experience combining basic science with professional development, this project will build a new pipeline of students to study and impact the treatment of neurologic diseases that have a large and growing public health burden. Students in the program will be recruited from across the country to represent diverse perspectives and broad personal experiences.