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 program runs for ten weeks each summer and is multi-faceted. The first and most important facet involves student exposure to and participation in a contemporary research project under the guidance of a faculty member. A second facet has the students participating in a series of weekly workshops in which students are exposed to a variety of advanced research techniques that they are unlikely to see in individual laboratories, including the use of confocal and electro microscopy, bioinformatics, genomics and proteomics, genetic mapping techniques, hybridoma/monoclonal antibody preparation, 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. These scientists include women and underrepresented minority scientists who can serve as role models for these students. Finally, a fourth facet of our program is a weekly research lunch co-hosted by the principal investigators Drs. Petri and 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. Nearly 40 faculty members, whose principal research interests are in Biodefense and Infectious Diseases, will serve as mentors. All components of this program are currently in place. In summary, we feel that our program provides an outstanding environment to stimulate and foster interest in research careers in biomedical research. Reviews of the program by past 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. The same populations are likely to bear the brunt of biological attacks and consequently have much to gain by adequate Biodefense. 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 in Biodefense and Infectious Diseases.
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