SSU is submitting this MARC U-STAR proposal to increase the number of underrepresented minority (URM) students it sends to Ph.D. biomedical/behavioral science programs from the baseline level of 2/year to 6/year. Since SSU's last MARC program was funded in 2002, SSU has significantly strengthened its research infrastructure with major new training programs and lab enhancements. However, none of the current programs has a biomedical/behavioral science Ph.D. preparation focus. The SSU MARC program will build on these programs' achievements and provide this targeted focus. The MARC program specific aims are to: 1) implement and sustain a model Honors biomedical/behavioral science Ph.D. preparation program, 2) strengthen SSU's research and education training infrastructure by implementing pre-MARC training activities designed to double the size of the pre-MARC URM Honors pool (as measured by the number of sophomores who are performing at a 3.25 GPA or higher) from the current baseline of 16 sophomores to 30 by the end of the MARC program, and 3) strengthen the institutional capacity for teaching and research training by providing professional development for the faculty. The SSU MARC program will support 28 junior/senior trainees (4 in year 1, 10 in year 2, and 12 in years 3-5) in a rigorous 2-year training program of mentored research and productivity, including conference presentations and co-publication. MARC trainees will be drawn from 5 academic disciplines: biology, chemistry, marine science, math, and behavior analysis. Over the 5 year term, 22 MARC trainees will earn BS degrees and at least 80% of these (18) are expected to enter Ph.D. programs (4/year) on top of the existing 2/year, for a new combined total of 6/year (targeted impact). The program will expand the pre-MARC Honors pool by encouraging, increasing and sustaining their participation in training workshops, scientific colloquia with external researchers and Ph.D. candidates, and summer research (broad institutional impact). The program will provide faculty workshops to strengthen the faculty's skills in mentoring, teaching critical thinking skills, conducting inquiry based learning, and teaching research training, including responsible conduct of research (RCR) training (broad institutional impact). The SSU proposal is a well- designed, cohesive program with the required elements to assure long-term success: committed program leadership and institutional support, reliance on SSU's strongest research preceptors, continuous engagement with external collaborators, sound student selection process including higher GPA (3.25) and use of a motivation screening instrument, synergy with SSU's other training programs, and a rigorous program evaluation process. The PI is Dr. Chellu Chetty, Associate VP, Research and Sponsored Programs, Regents Distinguished Professor of Biology, and a recipient of the NSF Presidential Award for Mentorship. PI Chetty will be supported by 3 faculty program coordinators, a full-time Program Manager/Database Manager, and a cadre of 20 SSU preceptors working in close partnership with external research collaborators/mentors.
The SSU MARC U-STAR proposal aims to triple the number of underrepresented minority (URM) students it sends to biomedical/behavioral Ph.D. programs, by implementing an Honors URM Ph.D. preparation research training program. This program has high public health relevance and significance. As cited by NSF, though URMs are 29% of the population, they represent less than 10% of the science Ph.D. degree recipients. Given the disproportionate burden of disease among racial/ethnic minorities and the unique socio-cultural issues involved in disease pathogenesis and management, increasing the number of trained minority health scientists in the biomedical research work force is critical.