The primary goal of the Mentored Experiences in Research, Instruction, and Teaching (MERIT) Program is to provide postdoctoral scholars with outstanding research and teaching experiences while improving the recruitment of underrepresented groups into the field of biomedical and behavioral research. In this regard, the MERIT Program aims to offer superb training in teaching and research practices that permit a diverse community of postdoctoral scholars to become tomorrow's leading academicians. The MERIT Program is facilitated through a partnership of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Oakwood University, and Stillman College;all schools are located in Alabama within a 100 mile radius. In this first competitive renewal, the proposed structure of the MERIT Program increases from three to four years of concurrent research training and teaching instruction. The research component incorporates laboratory-based instruction together with ethics training and professional skills development, including instruction in grant writing and time and laboratory management. The teaching component includes four key elements: i) teaching- related coursework;ii) one-on-one mentoring of an undergraduate student;iii) course development;and iv) class-room and online teaching experiences. The added year of training provides MERIT Scholars with more time to complete research projects and professional development. At the start of both the research and teaching components, each MERIT Scholar devises personal development plans in order to determine his/her research- and teaching-related goals;these plans are utilized to chart the progress of each MERIT Scholar toward their stated goals. During the current grant period, assessment of the MERIT Program has indicated that: i) its Scholars have exceled in their research and teaching abilities and job placement opportunities;ii) career development and the recruitment of underrepresented groups have increased at the host institution;and iii) science-related curriculua and the number of undergraduates applying to graduate programs in the biomedical sciences have been enhanced at the partner institutions. Currently, the MERIT Program funds 6 training slots each year;in this application, we request an increase to a total of 9 full training slots per year.
The MERIT Program is designed to address the growing demand for future faculty who can conduct cutting- edge research and teach effectively. By providing outstanding postdoctoral scholars with formalized research training at the host institution and teaching instruction at the partner schools, which serve undergraduates from underrepresented groups, the MERIT Program meets this need while promoting the diversification of the future biomedical workforce.
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