Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) is a historically black institution located in Northeastern North Carolina (NENC), one of the most economically distressed regions of North Carolina. ECSU requests NIH/NIGMS support to continue its successful MARC U*STAR Training Program designed to impact the challenges for students to PhD pathway, especially for students in biomedical sciences, through the long-term goals of: (i) providing exceptional student research training; (ii) increasing academic support; and (iii) broadly impacting the ECSU community to promote student success with the ultimate goal of PhD degree matriculation. During the current period of support, we have made significant progress towards achieving these goals. The program supported 24 URM undergraduates in both on-campus and off- campus mentored research at such prestigious RO1 universities, like Vanderbilt and Duke, and provided academic and career counseling to these individuals toward competitive PhD application submissions. A notable 65% MARC supported students are making solid progress towards completing doctoral degrees and 90% of MARC scholars overall have completed their Bachelor?s degree and are pursuing PhD and post-Baccalaureate programs in advanced biomedical and related fields to accomplish those goals, the specific aims of this competitive renewal are to build on the past successes by: (i) selecting scholars that possess excellent credentials and bona-fide desire to obtain PhDs; (ii) continuing to provide one-on-one mentorship in research and PhD application submissions that increases the likelihood of successful program acceptance; and (iii) provide institutional financial support alleviating students from the distraction and potential derailment of working external jobs while pursuing academics and research. The latter is important since many of our students are from families of high economic need. This renewal application has targeted 8 research-intensive institutions as external summer research training sites and these collaborators serve as prospective institutions for EMARC scholars to pursue PhDs. This renewal request will support 4 trainees per cohort, and minimum 12 trainees over the life of the renewal, and scholars will receive full tuition, monthly stipend to alleviate outside work obligations, and additional support for research, presentations, publications and conference travel and GRE training. Expected outcome: Within the 5 years of the grant period, we anticipate a minimum of 8 of the program?s 12 participants (67%) will have entered PhD programs. This number is realistic consider the current ECSU EMARC program?s successful PhD admission rate is nearly 65%.
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 NIH-MARC renewal 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 12 URMs will be accepted into PhD programs during the funding period.
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