We propose to continue an existing and highly successful Summer Research Internship Program (SRIP) at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. The goals of this program will be to expose a diverse group of undergraduate students and medical students to state of the art biodefense and infectious diseases research, to instill in them confidence and a desire to consider research as a career option, and to familiarize them with the opportunities that exist for a career in biomedical research. The ten week program is multi-faceted, with the first and most important facet involving student exposure to and participation in a contemporary research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. A second facet has the students participating in a series of weekly workshops in which students are exposed to advanced research techniques that they are unlikely to see in individual laboratories, including the use of confocal and electron microscopy, bioinformatics, genomics and proteomics, genetic mapping techniques, etc. The third facet includes a series of lectures and discussions wherein the students are exposed to a wide array of research topics and internationally-recognized scientists, including women and underrepresented minority scientists who can serve as role models for these students. A final facet of our program is a weekly research lunch, co-hosted by the Dr. Petri and the co-PI Dr. Hockensmith, during which the students give oral statements of their working hypotheses, summaries of the past week's research progress, discuss career options and opportunities, and consider approaches for choosing and applying to a graduate program. All components of this program are in place using nearly thirty faculty mentors with research interests in biodefense and infectious diseases. During the initial years of this grant we have hosted 47 trainees with 51% having category A, B or C pathogen projects, 26% innate or acquired immunity projects and 23% basic science projects. Furthermore, 45% of participants who have obtained their undergraduate degree have gone on to PhD and MD/PhD graduate programs. We feel that our program provides an outstanding environment to stimulate and foster interest in research career in biomedical research. Program reviews by participants have been outstanding and have contributed significantly to the continued interest in our program.
The burden of infectious diseases is disproportionately borne by the disadvantaged, underrepresented and disabled of our society. We aim to Increase the opportunities for these individuals to pursue academic research with the hope that we can eventually Increase the overall diversity of our mature scientific work force and research enterprise.
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