The U.S. needs a strong, diverse workforce of PhD-level scientists and engineers to meet emerging challenges in healthcare. The long term goal of the UTSA ESTEEMED Program is to cultivate an exceptional cohort of minority, disadvantaged, or disabled freshmen students, currently underrepresented (UR) in the biosciences, to develop as scientists and leaders who rise to meet these emerging challenges. UTSA is an excellent recruiting and training ground for these future scientists, with a large UR population and laboratories that perform high quality biomedical research and embrace undergraduate (UG) researchers. UTSA also has a high-performing NIH-funded MARC U*STAR Honors Research Training Program, active since 1980, into which the ESTEEMED trainees can transition when they become juniors. The proposed ESTEEMED program requests 7 training positions in its first year and 14 thereafter, to maintain a balanced number of freshman and sophomore trainees. The trainees will be recruited from nine majors in the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, and Biomedical Engineering. We hypothesize that we can transform these incoming UR freshmen into future world-class scientists through accomplishment of the following Specific Aims: #1 support academic achievement; #2 support growth as a scientist and science communicator; #3 instruct trainees about career options and diverse fields, with a focus on biomedical computation; and #4 promote leadership development and address known barriers to UG and doctoral degree attainment in UR populations. The many activities designed to achieve these Aims will be introduced in a pre-Freshman Bridge Program, extend throughout all semesters of the freshman and sophomore years, and include two full-time summer research programs in consecutive summers, one at UTSA and the next at a nationally ranked university or medical center. The trainees will face challenges that continuously spur their personal and professional growth. For example, their immersion in research will progress from lab visits, to rotations, to research at UTSA, to research in a different institution in a new city. The success of the program will be measured in GPA outcomes; research presentations and publications; admission into MARC; degree completion; admission into doctoral training; and long term career outcomes, as well as qualitatively reported increases in confidence or integration into science culture. Unique program features include a UTSA-supported ?extra? summer program, and early completion of the first semester of MARC training during this summer program, to better align the ESTEEMED and MARC training sequences. Also, with depression rampant in graduate student populations, ESTEEMED trainees will complete biofeedback training to improve their resistance to stress. Program outcomes will include: at least 95% of trainees will complete their degree, 50% will progress to the MARC and 75% of MARC matriculants will pursue a PhD; all second year students will present at several local and one national conference, and 40% will gain authorship by graduation. Program success will provide evidence for inclusion of additional freshman interventions on campus.
Increasing the number of researchers from scientifically-underrepresented groups will promote biomedical advancement in the United States. The proposed ESTEEM Research Program will identify high-achieving underrepresented freshmen and support them as they develop as biomedical scientists. The students will engage in meaningful year round biomedical research projects; receive mentoring, academic assistance, and deep foundations in computational biology; and develop the credentials needed to enter UTSA?s MARC Honors Research Training Program as juniors, and later complete biomedical doctoral degrees and attain leadership positions in the scientific community.