This application requests the renewal of the MARC U-STAR Training Program at Washington University. The objective of our program is to provide rigorous research-based training to a diverse cohort of six funded trainees in their junior and senior year in order to increase the representation of minority students in top PhD programs nation-wide. We seek to accomplish this goal via the development and evolution of a structured four-year program that provides trainees with a positive, personal, and scientifically rigorous community in which to thrive. Our educational mission is to train our students to think critically and independently and to write and speak effectively about basic questions in science. Our program spans all four-years of college, with MARC-funded support restricted to students in their junior and senior year. In the freshmen year, URM students are encouraged to participate in a research-focused seminar, Eureka, that introduces students to the art and practice of research-based science. During the summer after their first year, we run the pre- sophomore U-STAR summer program that exposes ~15 students, most of URM status, to a full-time mentored research experience, with additional academic, professional development, and social activities rounding out the experience. In the sophomore year, we encourage students to continue their research. At the end of the year, we select our trainees. Over the next two years, all trainees continue research in their home labs and over the summer and attend the new, weekly MARC U-STAR seminar. Spearheaded by the new program director, the following recent initiatives have enhanced our training program and mission: 1) a weekly U-STAR Seminar at which students give scientific presentations; 2) the introduction of videotaping to this forum to enhance student talks; 3) three U-STAR dinners during the calendar year to build community; 4) the opportunity for trainees to undergo mock PhD and MD/PhD interviews; and, 5) the opportunity for trainees to shadow physician-scientists on clinical rounds to learn about the interface between basic research and clinical practice. Through these initiatives, we seek to train our students to become critical, independent scientists, who are able to effectively communicate the importance and logic of their research in oral and written form. Our rationale for support is that all of the URM students at Washington University have excelled academically in high school and have high potential to complete the PhD in their subject of choice, yet historically our URM biomedical PhD pursuits are disproportionately low - roughly one student per year. Thus, a flourishing MARC program at Wash U can in the short term increase the number of top-notch URM students in graduate school and in the long term help transform the demographics of the professoriate in academic research.
This proposal seeks funding for an undergraduate research program that enables minority students to carry out research and participate in academic and professional development events during their junior and senior years. Scientific breakthroughs improve health care, agricultural practices, and the quality of life in the US and the world, and demand researchers probe basic questions from all angles, with recent work indicating that a team's productivity positively correlates with group diversity. Thus, programs that promote a diverse scientific workforce are essential to continue the tradition of scientific excellence in th United States.
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