We request renewal of our successful interdisciplinary Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) program for pre-doctoral (graduate) and pre-baccalaureate (undergraduate) students from groups underrepresented in careers in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. Our training program is a partnership with departments and interdisciplinary graduate programs which takes advantage of Virginia Tech?s (VT) history of excellence in Engineering and the Behavioral and Life Sciences. With lessons learned in the last eight years, we will continue to recruit across disciplines and from diverse geographic areas and institutions. From the first cycle, 2007-12, a total of 23 pre-doctoral students participated in the VT IMSD program. A total of 16 (or 69.5%) have completed and received the PhD degree; 3 completed MS degrees and are now working; and another two are continuing and will complete in 2016. In the current cycle, we continued this significantly better-than-average graduation rate of URMs in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, of the 22 scholars in the PhD programs, only 2 have been unsuccessful in their preliminary examinations. While our undergraduate IMSD has significantly improved over the first cycle, with scholars matriculating into programs like Stanford, Duke, Brown, and NC State, it remains significantly challenged but in the proposed work, we have plans that will help us continue to be better, especially in our recruiting of scholars not interested in MD. Our student-driven pre-doctoral IMSD program, unlike Virginia Tech?s traditional ?professor-driven recruitment? will continue as a partnership with departments and interdisciplinary programs. Doctoral Scholars recruited into the training program will participate in activities that include lab rotations, foundation courses, seminars, and peer mentoring (as mentee in the first two years and mentor the last 2-3 years). These programs will provide opportunities for scholars to develop skill sets that include research, oral and written communication, effective grant and scientific writing, and surviving the challenges in a doctoral program and ultimately a biomedical research career. In addition to engaging in programs in fulfillment of their degree requirements, the scholars will participate in scientific and enrichment activities that include a bi-weekly IMSD forum, a weekly program area seminar, a monthly multicultural assembly, and an annual research symposium. We are confident that our IMSD scholars will develop a set of skills needed for excellence in research, communication, scientific presentations and surviving graduate school. These skills and experiences will enhance scholar preparation for pursuing careers in biomedical and behavioral sciences and engineering. Among changes/additions proposed for our next cycle if funded is the inclusion of our illustrious alumni, three of whom are Assistant Professors and others research scientists at prestigious institutions and industry, in our Advisory Committee. Virginia Tech?s new leadership and the experience and network established through 8 years of implementation of the IMSD program objectives will further lead to even greater success in training scholars and enabling alumni to continue to grow and be successful.
Our training program will continue to develop and train underrepresented minorities in acquiring skills needed to succeed in Ph.D. programs and biomedical and behavioral research including interdisciplinary research, critical thinking, mentoring and advising, networking, interviewing, and presentation skills (writing and communication). These activities continue to positively impact the number of minorities who go on to receive PhDs and to subsequently pursue careers in the biomedical or behavioral research, which is a major goal of the PHS.
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