Despite efforts to increase the number of underrepresented researchers in universities across the country, there is a continued lack of diversity in Aging Research. The goal of the UAB Research in Aging through Mentorship and Practice ? Undergraduate Program (UAB RAMP-UP) is to reduce disparities in health status and health outcomes in older adults by increasing the diversity in the aging workforce with a focus on underrepresented and rural undergraduate students. UAB RAMP-UP will select motivated undergraduate students who have completed their freshman year and provide them with the organizational, academic, and research skills needed to be competitive.
The specific aims of UAB RAMP-UP are: 1) training a diverse cadre of promising undergraduate students by providing research education and hands-on mentored research experiences; 2) employing a team-mentoring approach to provide structured guidance for success in graduate school and future careers consisting of Personal Advocates, serving as promoters and champions, Academic Mentors, guiding them in a specific area of aging research, and Career Coaches, matched for demographics and background, helping them navigate the graduate school and early career processes; 3) customizing career roadmaps and providing career development opportunities; 4) adapting successful on-site training programs into on-site/virtual learning activities targeting aging content areas; 5) utilizing a combination of in-person interaction (i.e. Program Director, Institutional Coordinators, Career Support Teams) and virtual tools (e.g. web-based instruction, videoconferencing, social media) to ensure Trainees receive individual and continuous attention for several years as a cohort of learners; and 6) evaluating the program and its implementation to allow for quality improvement and mid-course corrections. Incorporating in-person and virtual didactic training combined with an intensive mentored research experience for eight weeks each in two summers, followed by a virtual maintenance year where participants will complete graduate school applications and prepare for success as graduate students, accentuated by a Virtual Journal Club examining aging-related literature, UAB RAMP-UP will train four cohorts totaling 56 Trainees, each working on an existing, aging-related research study during both summers and producing a presentation reporting findings from a research question they developed. A UAB-based Program Director and on-site Institutional Coordinators, will ensure that trainees remain connected to the program through training, mentoring, virtual learning, and social media platforms. UAB has a long history of preparing underrepresented undergraduate students for careers in research. By partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the University of Alabama, UAB RAMP-UP will benefit from a collaborative effort to expose Trainees eager to work on reducing health inequities in aging populations, to a diverse group of mentors participating in aging- related research and expanding opportunities for career development and networking.
In order to fully address disparities in health status and outcomes in older adults, we must ensure that our research workforce in aging is representative of the full range of our population. Though our demographic landscape is changing, the research employment and NIH funding landscapes have changed little over the past several decades. The UAB Research in Aging through Mentorship and Practice ? Undergraduate Program (UAB RAMP-UP) will provide mentored research training and education in MSTEM areas related to research in aging for undergraduate students from rural and diverse backgrounds underrepresented nationally in biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research, to help ensure that the process and products of scientific discovery are as robust as possible.