The proposed BUILD-funded Biomedical Learning and Student Training (BLaST) program will enhance capacity for undergraduate biomedical research training and efficacy for both engaging students from diverse backgrounds and preparing students for biomedical research careers. Through distinct and innovative approaches we seek to transform higher education by fully integrating research and teaching. Transformation to a culture of integrated research and teaching will occur through student, faculty, and institutional development that address institutional, social, and individual factors influencing engagement and persistence of emerging scientists. BLaST will engage students in active learning, early research experiences, and learning communities that engender confidence in knowledge and status as researchers, and motivate persistence. UAF is committed to undergraduate research training and infrastructure-building grants from the NIH have dramatically increased our biomedical research capacity. The next step is to integrate these elements and enhance capacity for undergraduate biomedical research training. We focus on recruiting rural students and will implement BLaST at 9 rural Alaskan campuses by partnering with llisagvik Tribal College, University of Alaska Southeast, and rural campuses. Alaska, as the most rural state and one with extreme educational and economic disparities, is the ideal test case for transformative approaches to engage and support rural students. Pursuit of 3 specific aims will enable achievement of goals:
Specific Aim 1 : Emphasize active and experiential learning throughout undergraduate curricula, thereby building capacity to engage students, rather than capacity simply to serve students.
Specific Aim 2 : Fully integrate teaching and research in the higher education enterprise, thereby immersing students in biomedical research throughout their undergraduate study.
Specific Aim 3 : Embed students in a biomedical learning community that takes a holistic approach to student development by emphasizing cultural inclusiveness and comprehensive advising as well as training in critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are hallmarks of scientific training
Through integration of research and teaching at the Fairbanks campus and integration of rural institutions and their students into the biomedical research enterprise in Alaska, the proposed BLaST program will improve active and experiential learning opportunities and outcomes for all students interested in biomedical research careers, including those from underrepresented groups.