The IMSD Graduate Fellows Program has had a dramatic impact on PhD-level training of Underrepresented (UR) students at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Since its inception in 1997, UR participation in supported departments (biology, chemistry, biochemistry, chemical/ mechanical engineering, human services psychology, and physics) has increased from 0%, 1%, 0%, 1%, 8%, and 0%, respectively, to 13%, 16%, 17%, 16%, 21%, and 3%, respectively. Expansion in 2007 to the Graduate Program in Life Science (GPILS) at our sister campus, the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB), triggered a near doubling in UR GPILS enrollment at UMB (from 22 students in 2007 to 39 students in 2014). Total IMSD enrollment continues to grow, with 87 IMSD PhD students enrolled in the Fall of 2015 (52 African American, 24 Hispanic, 1 Native American, 3 Pacific Islander, 1 Caucasian with disability, and 6 non-UR (1 declared- disadvantaged Caucasian male, 2 women of Middle Eastern descent, 1 East Indian, and 2 Asian)). Retention has reached an all-time high (90% in the current funding period; 87% over the past 10 years; 81% since inception), and UR PhD production has increased dramatically, from 7 UR PhD degrees awarded over the 15 years preceding IMSD to 78 total PhDs awarded to IMSD Fellows (32 since our last competitive renewal). Of the 78 graduates, 56 (72%) matriculated directly to Postdoctoral positions. Although nearly all of the quantitative objectives of the current support period have been met, significant challenges remain. In particular, although 20 former IMSD Fellow graduates obtained full- or part-time university/college faculty positions, and 5 additional postdocs are actively applying for tenure-track positions, only one former Fellow currently holds a tenure-track position. Since UR colleagues in tenured academic positions are likely to have the broadest impact as mentors and policy makers, and since the percentage of tenured UR faculty has remained flat for decades, we clearly must do a better job of preparing IMSD Fellows for negative pressures that are impacting their matriculation to tenure-track positions -- including published reports that UR students are less competitive for NIH funding, that the U.S. is producing too many PhDs, and that there are declining academic opportunities. In addition, UR participation in PhD programs at UMBC and UMB remains well below national population averages. Overall objectives include: (1) growth to 100+ enrolled Fellows while maintaining high retention, (2) expansion in STEM departments where UR participation has lagged, and (3) increase competitiveness for tenure-track faculty positions. New activities include: (i) mock study sections and workshops to improve grantsmanship, (ii) new individualized (using IDPs) and cohort-level advising activities, (iii) expansion of the IMSD speaker exchange, to increase exposure and match Fellows with like-minded postdoc advisors at supportive institutions, and (iv) expansion of K-12 outreach activities, to develop leadership skills and address critical mentorship needs in inner-city Baltimore that were brought to focus by the 2015 riots.

Public Health Relevance

The overall goal of the IMSD Graduate Fellows Program at UMBC is to increase the number of underrepresented students in the biomedical and behavioral sciences who earn PhD degrees and obtain leadership and research positions in academics, government, and industry. Our proposed program is anticipated to grow from 87 to 100+ enrolled IMSD Fellows and produce at least 15 UR PhD graduates annually. New components will enable Fellows to compete more effectively for federal research grants, make informed postdoctoral choices, and to more confidently pursue leadership positions in industry, government, and academics. 1

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Education Projects (R25)
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NIGMS Initial Review Group (TWD)
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Ravichandran, Veerasamy
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University of Maryland Balt CO Campus
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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