The objective of the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) Post-baccalaureate Research and Education Program (PennPREP) is to guide recent college graduates from underrepresented (UR) groups into graduate school to pursue biomedical research. At least 9 UR scholars are identified each year who are interested in biomedical research but lack the experience or expertise necessary for graduate school training. Each scholar is matched with a research mentor among the graduate training faculty and provided with a significant one year (or possibly longer) research project. An Individual Student Development Plan (IDP) is developed for each scholar to ensure that the scholar undertakes training appropriate to his or her own scientific needs and interests, including graduate or advanced undergraduate coursework. Scholars also develop the skills necessary for success in graduate school by completing workshops in biostatistics, grant writing, the responsible conduct of research, critical analysis of scientific literature, and oral and written presentation skills. Scholars also participate in a one- on-one writing workshop with a professional writing instructor. Scholars meet weekly as a group to discuss scientific journal articles and their own research, in order to further develop their skills in the critical evaluation of research and the delivery of scientific presentations, as well as to increase their exposure to research outside their own laboratory. In addition, scholars receive advising for the graduate school application process, including selecting programs, writing application essays, and practicing interviews. If necessary, scholars will take a GRE or MCAT preparation course. Scholars also participate in various lunches and seminars with Penn faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students who share their training experiences, on-going research, and academic paths. As of 2012, scholars meet annually with scholars, faculty, and advisors of PREP programs at other institutions in order to network and gain additional perspectives. In addition, all PREP scholars are expected to attend a national conference each year, such as ABRCMS or a discipline-specific meeting as an additional means of broadening exposure to research and establishing networks. Several opportunities are in place for PREP alumni to remain engaged with the program including: (1) PREPConnect, via which PREP alumni connect virtually (e.g. Skype), once/month with current scholars to offer mentoring and guidance, and (2) the PREP Alumni Advisory Board, which will meet twice/year to evaluate current programming initiatives, events and meetings. Mechanisms are in place for measuring the effectiveness of the program's various components and improving the training experience over time. The ultimate measure of the program's success is the percentage of scholars who are admitted to PhD or MD-PhD training programs and pursue a research career. Over the past 13 years, 84% (62/74) of PennPREP scholars who have successfully completed the program have been admitted to PhD or MD-PhD programs. Nineteen of these PennPREP alumni have received the PhD and moved on to post-doctoral training and/or research careers.
This program is designed to provide recent college graduates from groups underrepresented (UR) in the biomedical sciences with an intensive research experience, related enrichment activities, and academic advising for a period of a year or possibly longer. The goal of the program is to increase the number of students from UR backgrounds who enroll in a PhD program and pursue a research career. Ultimately, it is expected that an increase in UR biomedical researchers will diversify the biomedical workforce and help to reduce health care disparities.
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