The long-term goal of this project is to significantly increase the number of students from underrepresented groups who obtain Ph.D. degrees in biomedical fields. To this end, we will establish a one-year PREP internship that includes independent research and individualized programs of study, each with an interdisciplinary focus designed to increase the competitiveness of the PREP students for admission to rigorous biomedical graduate programs. Our project will capitalize on unique strengths of the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMA): A) UMA leads the Northeast Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (NEAGEP), a highly interactive network of 15 minority-serving and research-extensive universities with demonstrated success in recruiting and retaining minority students in STEM Ph.D. programs;B) UMA has well-developed programs of interdisciplinary research and graduate education in biomedicine;C) UMA has developed effective multi-level mentoring programs to support diversity at all levels of academia. We take advantage of these strengths to accomplish the following specific aims: 1) Use existing connections in NEAGEP and at UMA to recruit talented students from underrepresented groups;2) Pre-screen students through a well established eight-week summer program for undergraduate research (SPUR);3) Provide near- peer and faculty mentors with diversity training;4) Work with PREP participants and their mentors to formulate individualized programs of study based on interests, strengths and needs of students identified during SPUR;5) Start mentoring on first contact and continue through graduate school and beyond. During the program, students will engage in a collaborative research project with a primary and secondary faculty mentors, as well as near-peer graduate student mentors. The Institute for Cellular Engineering, Chemistry-Biology Interface and Neuroendocrinology graduate training programs will provide an interdisciplinary focus through specific enrichment courses. Students will participate in regular social and professional development activities, many with NEAGEP doctoral students so that PREP participants will be part of a larger community of minority scholars. Group PREP courses will focus on working in interdisciplinary and diverse groups in biomedicine, developing critical thinking skills and gaining an understanding of the responsible conduct of research. Faculty mentors, PIs and the Office of Graduate Recruitment and Retention will teach students how to apply to graduate school and to obtain pre-doctoral fellowships. At the end of the program, we anticipate that students will enroll in one of the numerous biomedicine graduate programs served by the participating interdisciplinary training programs, graduate programs in other NEAGEP institutions or in other selective graduate programs around the country. This program will help meet the growing need for biomedical researchers who can address issues of health care in all segments of our population.
The underrepresentation of U.S. minorities, a growing segment of the population in the biomedical and behavioral research workforce increases reliance on international talent and exacerbates healthcare disparities among racial and socioeconomic groups. Our PREP will directly address this issue through individualized programs that enhance preparation of underrepresented minority students for Ph.D. programs in biomedical research.
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