The proposed project, titled "A Student-Centered Entrepreneurship Development (ASCEND) Training Model to Promote Diversity in Biomedical Research," uses an entrepreneurial versus apprenticeship approach. In Other words, unlike the traditional models, the ASCEND students play a more active role and will take ownership from the start by proposing and selecting their topic of research, designing appropriate research methods, writing small grants, and moving the project forward. The ASCEND model tailors its approach to address factors related to why undergraduate minority students might not be interested in entering a career in biomedical research (e.g., inadequate autonomy and creativity, lack of immediate gratification/reward, lack of peer support). Students in the proposed project will be recruited from Morgan State University and through pipeline partner institutions such as public schools and community colleges. The students can immediately get involved in biomedical research through participation in the Students'Scientific Research Center (SSRC) created by ASCEND to motivate, train, and empower students in conducting their own research. The SSRC creates a pool of interested undergraduate students from which 30 qualified trainees will be recruited into an annual Summer Research Institute (SRI). According to ASCEND, trainees of the SRI will be actively engaged in forming different research teams, choosing research topics, and developing their own proposals. During each academic year, a new cohort of 20 ASCEND scholars will be recruited through a competitive process to get advanced research training and implement their research proposals. They will be assigned to work with experienced mentors helping them develop and implement their Individual Development Plans (IDPs) and research projects. Each cohort will participate for at least two years. In addition, the proposed project intends to enhance the capacity of Morgan State University to train undergraduate minority students by improving relevant infrastructure and forming a cadre of trained faculty and students committed to sustain and disseminate the ASCEND training model.
The ASCEND project will provide research training to a large group of URM students, following an entrepreneurial model that allows them to learn how to do research while doing it. As a result, a new cadre of biomedical minority researchers will be trained who are both familiar with the root causes of health and health disparity problems and highly competent to address them.