Assessment of current programs designed to increase diversity in STEM disciplines at Brown University has revealed the need to specifically address the critical transition from undergraduate into doctoral training programs. The goal of Brown PREP is to diversify and enrich the biomedical research endeavor by increasing the number of students enrolled in and completing doctoral training programs. Informed by best practices and lessons learned from an institutional pilot PREP program, we describe an innovative program characterized by a comprehensive and customizable set of interventions to support and advance underrepresented students' academic and career development. Each year, our program will recruit and support eight research-oriented baccalaureate graduates from underrepresented backgrounds and provide them with interdisciplinary research experiences, individualized academic planning, professional development, and skill-building activities to increase their competitiveness and readiness for high-caliber doctoral programs. Participating departments for Brown's proposed PREP reside in the Life and Medical Sciences Division and include biology, neuroscience, psychology, public health and cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences. In addition to intensive interdisciplinary research experiences and knowledge development, multiple mentorship and community building opportunities permeate the activities of the Brown PREP. Creating a community of scholars that will help students successfully navigate program requirements is viewed as essential to helping students reach their full potential in a short period of time. The use of Individual Development Plans (IDP) will ensure that the Brown PREP research, educational and professional development activities are specifically tailored to address each student's academic and career goals. As important, the Brown PREP will provide opportunities for faculty to engage in conversations about the importance of developing a diverse workforce in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. We have developed a comprehensive evaluation plan to assess outcomes and progress toward meeting the overall goal and aims of this project and monitor quality assurance across the proposed interventions. As designed, the Brown PREP will increase the production of underrepresented students who obtain a doctoral degree in the biomedical sciences; institutionalize best practices on training and mentoring diverse scholars that can be shared among the Brown community and beyond; and diversify the biomedical research workforce.
This program addresses an important societal need to increase the number of individuals from underrepresented backgrounds who enter and complete doctoral programs in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. We propose to accomplish this goal through exposure to cutting-edge research experiences, broader mentorship support and targeted educational and professional development activities that will prepare students to succeed in PhD or MD-PhD programs and enhance diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce.