Neurological disorders will represent an increasing burden on the US health care system. Creative ideas, innovative approaches using classic basic research methods, as well as cutting-edge technologies are needed to advance our understanding of the intricate regulatory networks governing brain function in normal and disease states. For this work, we need to harness the unique capacities of all citizens. By ignoring the potential assets that individuals from UR groups can bring to the table, we stall the progress of discovery. We postulate that students from underrepresented backgrounds and those who are D/HH having the talent to succeed and do innovative leading-edge research need only exposure, opportunity, resources, social capital and training.
The specific aim of this proposal is: to significantly increase the number of undergraduate students from underrepresented and deaf/hard-of-hearing backgrounds who pursue PhDs or MD-PhDs in the neurosciences. Hypothesis: Students from underrepresented minority backgrounds (URM) or who are deaf/hard-of-hearing (D/HH) and who possess high motivation and academic ability to pursue a career in the neurosciences and participate early in their careers in hands-on research, receive intensive mentoring, develop researcher competency skills, and implement skills critical for professional career development, will pursue and succeed at a significantly higher rate, training in the neurosciences at the PhD or MD-PhD level.
This aim will be accomplished through the proposed Johns Hopkins Neuroscience Scholars Program (JHNSP). The program will leverage the success of an existing intervention, Project Pipeline Baltimore, which identifies and nurtures students at the high school level who have demonstrated a passion for science and developed a special appreciation for neuroscience through their secondary education and mentored hands-on research experiences. These students, who are now in or entering college, will be exposed over the course of their undergraduate studies to high quality research, mentoring, structured skills development workshops, and leadership and professional development training. During the third year of undergraduate studies, trainees will be exposed to topics and experiences that will provide them with a preview of what the transition from PhD or MD-PhD entails and what adjustments they would have to make and what skills they will need to refine. Hence, JHNSP will facilitate two critical transition periods: from high school to college, and from college to graduate school. In combination with our own concrete experiences, data suggesting that many of the program components described have positive impact on trainee self-efficacy, we believe JHNSP will have a measureable effect on advancing the careers of URM and D/HH undergraduate trainees in graduate programs and increasing their retention and career path satisfaction once they arrive. We believe that the proposed program can be a model of program coordination, integration and collaboration leading to increased retention of viable trainees in the neuroscience pipeline.
Evidence supports the fact that the best and most innovative solutions emerge from diverse work teams. This proposal will help strengthen the neuroscience workforce by preparing qualified underrepresented and deaf/hard-of-hearing students for graduate level training in the neurosciences.