An increasing number of undergraduates (~30% in the UC System) enter research universities after 2+ years in community colleges. Transfer students are more likely to be underrepresented minorities (URMs) or first-generation college students, and they seldom continue on to the PhD. Although many of them express interest in research, they have little to no access to such experiences at community colleges. Soon after matriculating at universities, they tend to opt out of scientific research careers, particularly the idea of continuing to graduate school. In response to this need and in the interest of increasing diversity in our population of neuroscience trainees, here we propose a program to provide transfer students with the skills, mentorship, and research experience to improve their chances of success in a research career. Our proposal builds on the START program, which for three years brought cohorts of URMs and first- generation transfer students to campus in the summer before they matriculated at UCSD. The START program, and others like it, have resulted in improved outcomes for these students. Via a partnership with local community colleges in collaboration with Academic Enrichment Programs (AEP), the STARTneuro program will begin by identifying interested students before they apply to UCSD. Accepted participants will then engage in a 10-week summer bridge program, with intensive and immersive full-day lab training in neuroscience techniques, from physiology to gene expression and function. Each student will also design and implement an independent research project based on the summer modules. During the academic year, students will meet regularly with faculty, be shepherded into lab internships, and be mentored in applying for a summer research scholarship the following summer. A core group of faculty who have demonstrated success mentoring undergraduates will provide the research experience and stewardship necessary to ensure that participants can succeed in scientific research beyond college.
STARTneuro is a collaborative effort between UC San Diego Neurobiology faculty and the Academic Enrichment Programs Office along with articulation officers from San Diego area community colleges. The program aims to enhance diversity in neuroscience research through identifying, training, and mentoring transfer students from their matriculation at UC San Diego through the completion of their degrees. STARTneuro students will initially participate in an intensive 10-week summer research program followed by two years of course work, research training, mentoring, and skills development, ultimately translating to successful application to Ph.D. programs in neuroscience or a related field.