Participation in research as an undergraduate increases the chances of pursuing graduate study in science fields, and increases retention and academic achievement among underrepresented (UR) students. However, despite the position of the University of Florida as a major biomedical research institution, less than 10% of UR freshmen enroll in supervised/mentored research. The 5-year goal of the GatorSTAR MARC program is to increase the number of UR students who graduate and enter doctoral programs in biomedicine and behavioral studies. To promote the early entry of students into research, the GatorSTAR program will include a focus on curricular reforms and activities that increase the students' preparedness for the foundational science and mathematics courses, increase their awareness of scientific research as a profession, and train the students in biomedical research professions. Specific innovations include the continued development of the X-Lab Boot Camp, which is an immersive, cross-disciplinary laboratory course that matriculating pre-MARC participants would complete near their homes in a freshman bridge program, a new course-based undergraduate research experience that will be part of the university's General Education Program, a mentor-mentee matching program enhanced by personality assessments, and the MARC Achievement program, which will include a mixture of social and professional development activities that build a sense of cohesion among program participants and provide instruction/experience in key elements of scientific life, including scientific ethics. By their juior year, each MARC student will be paired with one of more than 20 NIH-funded faculty, in coordination with existing T32 programs in UF Health. Junior MARC trainees will attend the ABRCMS meeting, rising senior MARC trainees will participate in a summer extramural research experience at partnering T32 programs in the southeast, and senior MARC trainees will present the results of their research at a national professional conference, accompanied by their faculty mentor.
Diverse perspectives in biomedical and behavioral research lead to greater innovation and greater recognition of issues that continue to threaten the health, well-being, and inclusion of underrepresented communities. Therefore increasing the diversity of biomedical and behavioral research scientists increases our potential to address the most urgent public health challenges, and is critical to the full realization of our national research goals. The proposed MARC GatorSTAR program would enhance the academic preparation and research skills training of underrepresented minority students, place them in mentored research environments with dynamic, experienced faculty preceptors, support the students through to their graduation with a B.S. degree in a biomedical or behavioral science-related discipline, and promote their continuation to a successful career as a research scientist.