Diversity at the molecular level has created the diversity of all life forms ever to exist on this planet. Recent studies by Scott E. Page (Univ. Michigan) suggest increased diversity of thought, perspective and background among individuals working as part of a team enhances performance. The pursuit of knowledge and scientific excellence then demands the inclusion of students from all backgrounds. This application requests continued support for a successful `Initiative for Maximizing Student Development' (IMSD) program within the Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (DBBS) at Washington University. The mission of our program is to increase the matriculation, training, retention, graduation, and career outcomes of outstanding PhD students from groups historically underrepresented in the sciences in order to increase the diversity and power of the STEM workforce in the US, particularly at the professoriate level. Over the past grant cycle, our IMSD program has developed 15 training elements that integrate seamlessly with graduate student training and research, bolstering the academic, professional, and career training of all entering under- represented (UR) PhD students and in many cases all DBBS PhD students. In the next grant cycle, we propose to add five new activities to our program in order to further drive student success and reduce the achievement gap between UR and non-UR students in our PhD programs. These training elements span our students' graduate careers and focus on ensuring they surpass defined academic milestones (e.g., first-year courses, qualifying exams, and thesis proposals), are exposed to varied career options via career panels and job- shadowing opportunities, and develop strong vertically-integrated student support networks. Our IMSD Program is only in its fourth-year of existence, but already welcomes essentially all entering UR DBBS PhD students into it, even though program funds can support only a subset of these students, ensuring that our program is the focal point of academic and career development support for UR students in DBBS. Our IMSD Program supports students for up to their first two years and preferentially selects students for support who have demonstrated a talent for and determination in the pursuit of research-based science, while overcoming significant hardships. Despite its young age, our program already has helped to increase early stage UR student retention and academic success and to narrow the achievement gap between UR and non-UR students. Thus, our IMSD program harbors great potential to increase the diversity of scientists within the US workforce, and in so doing continuing and enhancing the tradition of scientific excellence in the US.

Public Health Relevance

Scientific breakthroughs in the understanding of the inner workings of the natural world drive advancements in clinical practice and patient care. These breakthroughs demand researchers probe key unanswered questions from all angles, with recent studies suggesting that a team's productivity directly correlates with the diversity of its members. In this context, our program seeks to increase the matriculation, retention, training, and graduation of outstanding scientists from groups historically under-represented in the sciences in order to ensure the continued tradition of scientific excellence in the United States. !

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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Koduri, Sailaja
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Washington University
Schools of Medicine
Saint Louis
United States
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