North Carolina A&T State University (NCAT), the lead institution, in partnership with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) proposes to establish a Bridges to the Doctorate (BTD) program to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups in biomedical and bioinformatics research, who enter and successfully complete PhD programs in these fields. Therefore, the Bioinformatics & Biomedical Bridge (BIB) Program at NCAT is designed to provide a comprehensive series of intentional mentored activities that increase the chances of underrepresented (UR) students in two departments remain in the bioinformatic/biomedical sciences pipeline; and to pursue terminal degrees and careers in these areas. Goals and specific measurable outcomes are centered around a set of developmental and professional activities that will significantly increase the number of Masters level graduate students who will proceed immediately to high quality PhD programs after completing Masters degrees at North Carolina A&T State University. The overall objectives of the North Carolina A&T BIB program are: 1) Expand the pool of underrepresented students who remain in the bioinformatics and biomedical sciences pipeline through the PhD; 2) Increase the BIB fellows' skills, preparation and commitment to continue to conduct cutting- edge research; and 3) Improve BIB fellows' competitiveness for entering and completing PhD level programs in the bioinformatics and biomedical sciences. Planned activities that support these objectives and expected outcomes include: a pre-matriculation boot camp, an intensive co-mentored research experience between BIB fellows at NCAT and UNC-CH, implement a semester long comprehensive application and interview preparation workshop for BIB fellows, establish a peer-to-peer ?buddy? network between BIB fellows and PhD-level students at UNC-CH to foster communications about the PhD experience to help demystify the graduate school experience and establish a rigorous cross-disciplinary curriculum. Additionally, we will implement a multi-pronged recruitment system to recruit and retain high quality UR students with the potential to persist in the pipeline. The proposed program is innovative because it uses a student-centric approach to prepare students for the academic and research rigors as well as the intangible challenges faced by underrepresented students transitioning into PhD programs. Moreover, the proposed program focus is to address growing fields that are facing critical issues regarding the lack of diversity in its workforce and future workforce pipeline. The objectives in this proposal will increase the number of highly qualified UR students prepared to enter advanced education in the fields of bioinformatics and biomedical sciences. More importantly, the goals of the proposed BTD program align directly with the newly minted NCAT strategic plan, ?Preeminence 2020? as well as increase the number of highly qualified UR candidates in big date and bioinformatics, fields that lack diversity in the current workforce and diversity in the pipeline of future scientists. Utilizing the research strengths in bioinformatics and biomedical sciences of UNC, and the focus of NCAT's strategic plan will benefit the proposed bridge to doctorate program and make our two institutions an ideal collaboration to house the proposed Bridges to Doctorate Program.
The NCAT/UNC PhD the Bio-Informatics Bridge (BIB) Collaborative Bridge to Doctoral Program will prepare competitive, high quality Master's degree graduates who will continue into biomedical-related bioinformatics and computational science PhD programs on a pathway to advanced careers as scientists. The proposed partnership between North Carolina A&T State University (NCAT) the Minority Serving Master's institution and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), a top-tier PhD granting institution will address the shortage of underrepresented scientists entering STEM fields and specifically address the lack of diversity observed in computational science, bioinformatics and ?big data? research. The proposed goals, objectives and aims were designed understanding that the current and future public health issues will depend upon a very well-trained, diverse work force that solves problems and generates knowledge around health and disease states.