SPIRE (Seeding Postdoctoral Innovators in Research and Education) is a postdoctoral research and career development training program built as a partnership between UNC/Chapel Hill and four partner institutions in North Carolina, each of which has an historical mission to educate students from backgrounds underrepresented in the biomedical research enterprise. Through this partnership, the SPIRE program prepares scholars with the research and teaching skills to inspire students from underrepresented groups to pursue science careers. The current proposal maintains many successful components introduced over SPIRE?s 17-year history and adds several innovations to benefit the partner institutions and the scholars? preparation for academic careers. Throughout its history, SPIRE scholars have received training in research- based, student-centered approaches in science education. The current proposal expands upon these approaches by providing scholars with formalized training in Classroom-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs). Moreover, in order to increase the number of students from our partner institutions who can benefit from one-on-one research interactions and to provide additional mentoring experience for the scholars, we propose to increase the number of undergraduates from our partners that can take advantage of the very effective SPIRE Summer Research Program, piloted during the current grant cycle. In order to broaden exposure to research disciplines at partner institutions and promote potential collaborations, we propose to launch a Traveling Research Symposium, which will take place each year at one of our partner institutions. As the SPIRE program enhances the effectiveness of science education at its partner institutions through the initiatives described above, we will also insure that the scholars obtain high quality training within research laboratories at UNC/Chapel Hill by matching scholars with productive scientists whose training records continue to reveal their commitment to mentorship. Taken together, by providing scholars with cutting-edge training in research, teaching and professional development, the SPIRE program strives to continue its record of training scholars who attain academic positions and continue to advance science education.
The proportion of advanced degrees awarded to underrepresented groups in the biomedical sciences continues to be very small and does not reflect the current demographics in the US. To address this shortage, the SPIRE/IRACDA program provides training in both research and teaching along with professional development that prepares postdoctoral scholars to advance science education and inspire a full range of students, particularly those from underrepresented groups, to pursue careers in the sciences.
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