Evidence-based research that focuses on underrepresented minority (URM) students' motivation and persistence on science research career trajectories is very limited. Social cognitive theories have been used to predict persistence in challenging career paths, such as science, but these constructs have rarely been studied in doctoral students using rigorous designs, and the impact of psychosocial factors, such as self-efficacy and scientific identity have not been well tested. We propose to develop and study an intervention for doctoral students (the BRIDGE Program) based on a social cognitive framework, and specifically to test the BRIDGE Program's impact on the hypothesized relationships among individual, contextual and psychosocial factors and persistence in a path leading towards a science research career. This project will increase our knowledge of the factors that predict persistence in intention to pursue a science career as well as the impact of an intervention that we believe will most likely benefit students with academic and career aspirations in the research sciences. Using a quasi-experimental, longitudinal control group design, a large sample of early stage science doctoral students will be recruited to complete a baseline survey (T0) on these constructs. Respondents to the baseline survey will serve as the sample frame from which we will draw a stratified, random sample of 100 (50 URM, 50 non-URM) students - to serve as the intervention arm for this study. The intervention group will be invited to participate in a multimodal intervention program that intentionally targets psychosocial constructs predicting persistence. The remaining sample will serve as the control group, with data collected from both groups on an annual basis over an additional two-year time period (T1 and T2). Analyses will be directed at determining the impact of the intervention on the hypothesized paths of the model predicting persistence and research-related performance for the intervention group and in comparison with the control group. The moderating role, if any, that underrepresented minority status plays in the hypothesized paths will be examined. The information obtained here will be valuable to academic programs intent on implementing evidence-based programs that support diversity in the student body and in the science research career workforce.
The proposed research is relevant to public health because it is designed to support the development of a committed science research workforce. Our study will identify interventions that are effective in encouraging underrepresented minority doctoral students to continue on a science research career pathway. Effective interventions will save resources and support the career aspirations of underrepresented minority students.