A historically black institution, Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) is located in one of the most impoverished regions of North Carolina that is home to 80% of its students. An institutional self-study identified four major challenges that militate against the production of graduates that are competitive for acceptance into PhD programs. These challenges are (i) lack of academic role models for first-generation college freshman, (ii) achievement gaps in academics between underrepresented minority and majority students, (iii) low advanced majors in the STEM disciplines and (iv) low acceptance rates into PhD Programs. The proposed ECSU Minority Access to Research Careers Undergraduate Students Academic and Research Training (E-MARC) is designed to equip the institution with an ability to mitigate these challenges through academic enhancement on campus and biomedical/behavioral research training at external research-intensive institutions around the country. E-MARC participants are majors in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Engineering Technology, Psychology and Sociology with minimum GPA of 3.50 and unequivocal commitment to pursuing PhDs. Expected outcome: In the 5 years of the grant period, 20 EMARC former alumni and about 10 non-MARC supported alumni will have entered PhD programs. Thus, the program will result in increasing the number of alumni entering PhD programs from a 5-year baseline of 7 to over 30 in 5 years.
Major contributing factors to the great paucity of underrepresented minorities in the biomedical/behavioral research enterprise of the USA include (i) academic achievement gaps between URMs and majority students, (ii) resulting low grade point averages (GPAs), (iii) low scores on standardized tests such as Graduate Record Examination (GRE) required for acceptance into PhD and (iv) lack of participation in summer research opportunities. The proposed program addresses these problems by providing academic enhancement activities and summer research internship training opportunities for the URMs designed to make them competitive for acceptance into PhD programs. It is expected that over 30 URMs will be accepted into PhD programs during the funding--more than four-fold increase.