The future of biomedical research depends on access to a diverse pool of well-trained scientists who are prepared to tackle the research challenges of the 21st century. The first step in generating this pool is to have a cadre of enthusiastic, ambitious, diverse and creative educators who have the capacity to reach out to their students and inspire them to pursue careers in research. The challenge of identifying and training these educators is acute. Many of the universities that strive for broader inclusion also lack the resources and research infrastructure necessary to attract the best and the brightest young educators. Because postdoctoral training typically focuses on research, potential educators often face challenges in developing both the teaching skills and research portfolio necessary to be competitive for faculty positions. The Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) IRACDA program is designed to address both of these issues. The program has two major goals. The first is to prepare postdoctoral fellows for faculty positions through career development in both cutting edge research and pedagogy. VCU IRACDA Scholars perform research with experienced and well-funded mentors at VCU, and obtain hands-on mentored teaching experience at one of our partner institutions, Virginia Union University (VUU) and Virginia State University (VSU). VCU, VUU and VSU are not only geographically close, but have a decades-long history of collaborating in teaching and research projects. The second goal of VCU IRACDA is to enhance the research culture of the partner institutions, by developing courses and providing research opportunities for students and faculty. These goals will be accomplished through the following specific aims: (1) Identify at least 20 qualified applicants and annually recruit 3 excellent postdoctoral fellows to the 3-year VCU IRACDA program, (2) Provide VCU IRACDA Scholars with intensive career development in research and teaching, (3) Enhance the curricular offerings at our partner institutions through courses with a strong foundation in current research trends and methodologies that will enhance relevant knowledge and interest in research-related careers among students and faculty, and (4) Implement a rigorous evaluation and tracking system for longitudinal follow-up of VCU IRACDA Postdoctoral Scholars and the undergraduate students and faculty at partner institutions.
There is a pressing need to make the biomedical research enterprise in the US more inclusive. With our dedicated team of teaching and research mentors, comprehensive and rigorous career development regimen, and talented pool of postdoctoral Scholars, VCU IRACDA is making significant contributions to this effort.
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