A Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) was inaugurated in 2009 at the University of Michigan to increase the ability of underrepresented students to be accepted into and succeed in obtaining doctoral degrees from excellent doctoral (Ph.D.) programs in the biological, bioengineering and biomedical disciplines throughout the country. This request for renewal of the program now expands the program to three top-ranked schools and colleges at the University of Michigan: Medicine, Engineering and Public Health. Through a combination of NIH support and institutional support, PREP trainees will be able to receive training in research in biomedical sciences, bioengineering and chemical engineering in the College of Engineering and public health disciplines, including epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Public Health. A second year of PREP support will be available to trainees who are not admitted to excellent programs in these disciplines after their fist 4.5 to5 months in the program (i.e. in year one). These students can remain in the program for a second year of research training, insufficient research experience being the usual reason such students do not achieve graduate admission in year 1. The University of Michigan has long had a strong history of encouraging undergraduates to engage in research careers and in recent years has gained national attention through its commitment to recruiting a diverse and talented student population at all levels (from undergraduate to graduate programs to professional programs). In the biosciences, engineering and public health, there are extensive research opportunities for PREP students and strong and coordinated graduate programs in all these disciplines that have been successful in recruiting and graduating a diverse student body. The U of M has ranked in the top 10 among universities granting doctoral degrees to under-represented students for more than a decade. The expansion of the current, highly successful PREP at Michigan to Engineering and Public Health disciplines and to allow students to engage in research in these areas will provide promising students from around the country with the needed preparation both to apply successfully to strong graduate programs and to succeed once they matriculate. The inclusion of two new assistant program directors, both of whom are recent PhD graduates of the U of M, and themselves from under-represented populations will also allow the PREP trainees to receive mentoring from role models who have successfully accomplished what they aspire to do. It will also allow the program to help in the training of young and able program administrators to carry on the training of future generations of scientists for a diverse workforce.
The described project speaks directly to the objectives of the PREP program announcement from the NIH. Students from several ethnic and racial backgrounds as well as disabled and economically disadvantaged students are severely underrepresented in PhD-level research positions that address issues of human health from several perspectives-including the biosciences, bio and chemical engineering and public health disciplines, including biostatistics. The Michigan PREP provides under-represented students with opportunities to prepare themselves for graduate school in a wide range of different disciplines in the Schools of Medicine, Public Health, Engineering (Biomedical), Pharmacy, Kinesiology, and Dentistry and to succeed in these programs, therefore preparing them to contribute to an excellent and diverse scientific workforce.
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