The goal of our program, Promoting Underrepresented Minority Advancement in the Sciences (PUMAS), is to increase the number of well-trained minority biomedical research scientists. We do this by providing eight summer research opportunities for community college students from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. When Under-Represented Minority (URM) students gain first-hand experience in a state-of-the-art lab such as Gladstone, they are more prepared to major in the sciences when they transfer to a 4-year institution. This then increases the number of URM's who apply for graduate school and diversifies biomedical research. The PUMAS program recruits' students who are currently enrolled in a community college, have successfully completed at least two semesters of college-level science courses with a lab component (chemistry and molecular biology preferred, but not required), and who intend to transfer to a 4-year institution to pursue a baccalaureate degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). We target our marketing of the PUMAS program to 23 community colleges within a 60-mile radius of our institution. Mainly marketing to science department chairs and transfer centers at our target campuses, but also to Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) directors in Northern California. MESA is a program created to develop California's future STEM workforce that supports students to successfully transfer to 4-year universities in STEM majors. We chose to focus on community college students because this population is often overlooked and has the highest percentage of minority enrollment across institutes of higher education in our state. For 9-weeks each summer, the PUMAS participants are paired with a scientific mentor at Gladstone to work on a specific research project. They spend 75% of their time doing biomedical research, including independent research activities, receiving one-on-one mentoring, attending laboratory meetings, scientific lectures, seminars and journal clubs. They spend 25% of their time participating in supplementary educational activities, which include a week-long biotech boot-camp and a series of professional development workshops geared to inspire educationally disadvantaged students to persist through undergraduate and graduate school in the sciences. The PUMAS program culminates with a poster session in which students describe their work, hypothesis and findings to the scientific community at Gladstone.
A diversity of perspectives enriches scientific research, but unfortunately, the current biomedical research workforce is among the least diverse of the STEM fields. The Promoting Underrepresented Minority Advancement in the Sciences (PUMAS) program for community college students was conceived to address this issue. The program aims to increase the scientific skills, knowledge, personal confidence, and scientific networks of underrepresented college-age youth in support of their continued education and eventual careers in STEM, particularly research.