The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) MARC program was prompted by a self-study which indicated that the institution is underperforming with respect to numbers of underrepresented students pursuing the PhD in biomedical and behavioral sciences. Although substantial numbers of underrepresented individuals are enrolled in the participating disciplines (Biology: average 327 students, 26.7% of students;Chemistry: average 63.6 students, 24% of students;Biomedical Engineering: average 20 students, 10.5% of students;Chemical/Life Sciences Engineering: average 20.5 students;19.9% of students), only four URM VCU alumni earned doctorates in the Life, Biological, or Medical sciences between 2002-2006. Importantly, a substantial number of URM students in the participating disciplines are either enrolled in or eligible for the VCU Honors College (52 students annually), making them ideal candidates for undergraduate research experiences. Based on these data, we argue that VCU is well-positioned to make important contributions to efforts to increase numbers of underrepresented biomedical researchers and propose the MARC program described herein as a mechanism to do so. Potential VCU-MARC Scholars will be identified during the freshman and sophomore years and enrolled in a series of research-focused courses as well as mentored summer research experiences in the laboratories of VCU faculty. Once admitted to the program in the junior year, MARC Scholars will enroll in additional coursework designed to hone their oral and written communications skills, improve performance on the Graduate Record Examination, and assist with preparation of applications for PhD training. In addition, MARC Scholars will participate in long-term mentored research experiences at VCU and summer research at other institutions. Throughout the MARC program, Scholars will participate in enrichment activities that stress the development of critical thinking/ problem solving capacities, offer opportunities to develop communications skills, and provide networking opportunities intended to build confidence, establish self-efficacy, and promote the independence that is necessary to be productive in research. We strongly believe that the VCU MARC program will not only ensure MARC-supported students'commitment and completion of the PhD in biomedical sciences but that the enthusiasm and passion of MARC students will impact on their non-supported peers and spark their interest in biomedical research as well.
Despite gains in recent years, the numbers of underrepresented minorities in biomedical research are still inadequate. With its large population of URM students and intensive research environment, VCU is poised to improve this situation. The objective of this MARC proposal is to provide research training for URM honors students in Biology, Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering, and Chemical/ Life Sciences Engineering.