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Participation of underrepresented minorities in biomedical research careers:

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Kenneth Burtis*, Gina Holland, Barbara Horwitz, Marty Privalsky, Mark Sanders, ... Co-Directors, Drs. Mark Sanders and Gina Holland visit area community colleges. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Participation of underrepresented minorities in biomedical research careers:


1
Participation of under-represented minorities in
biomedical research careers Programs to increase
recruitment and retention at UC Davis
Kenneth Burtis, Gina Holland, Barbara Horwitz,
Marty Privalsky, Mark Sanders, Amy Barlow and
Merna Villarejo
Introduction Increasing the number of biomedical
research scientists from under-represented
minority groups presents a dual challenge
recruitment and retention. That is, increasing
the number of minority students interested in the
pursuing a biomedical research career
(recruitment) and increasing the percentage of
students who remain committed to this pursuit
throughout the rigors of undergraduate and
graduate education (retention). Therefore, to
have a significant impact on the scientific
workforce, recruitment programs must be coupled
with programs designed to ensure that the
experience is rewarding, productive, and
successful.  At UC Davis, we have addressed
these issues by developing programs that meet
students' needs at three critical phases of their
educational career (1) the transition from high
school to university (2) the transition from
community college to university and (3) the
transition from university to the first year of
graduate school. Each of these transitions
presents special challenges to a student such
that failure to address them can result in
failure to retain the student's commitment to
pursuing a career in biomedical research. To help
students successfully meet transitional
challenges, the three UC Davis programs use the
strategies of (1) providing coordinated training
and guidance in developing the skills necessary
for getting off to a strong start in both the
classroom and the research laboratory and (2)
providing the means to develop a supportive group
culture among both students and faculty to
provide ongoing encouragement and assistance to
the students. Although these undergraduate
programs were not designed with the specific
interests of the UC Davis Training Grant in
Molecular and Cellular Biology in mind, they will
nonetheless increase the pool of committed and
well-trained students from under-represented
groups who are prepared to excel in graduate
training in the biomedical sciences. This will
benefit both our own training program, as well as
other graduate programs across the nation. In the
case of the graduate-level NIH-IMSD Fellows
Program, there is a much more direct impact, as
students participating in the Fellows Program in
their first year provide strong candidates for
support by the training grant, which accepts
students beginning in the second year of graduate
studies. 
Upper Division Undergraduate Students - the TSFP
/ IMSD Program Currently, 37 percent of UC Davis
graduates begin their undergraduate education in
the California community college system. This
is an important alternative route to UCD for all
students, but particularly for under-represented
and non-traditional students. The Division of
Biological Sciences and UC Davis actively
encourage student transfer, while recognizing
that the transition from community college to the
University can be difficult. A transient drop in
the students' GPA is the most common
manifestation of transition difficulties.
Factors contributing to "transfer shock" are weak
academic foundation the rapid pace of the
quarter system large and impersonal university
classes isolation from friends and peer groups
and, lack of involvement in the discipline. The
Transfer Student Fellows Program (TSFP) prepares
transfer students for university-level course
work and provides access to undergraduate
research opportunities. To encourage students to
transfer to UCD and to apply to TSFP, the Project
Co-Directors, Drs. Mark Sanders and Gina Holland
visit area community colleges. Transfer Fellows
initiate their participation in TSFP by attending
a pre-entry summer session at UCD. They enroll
in "Genes and Gene Expression", the first
upper-division course in the biological sciences
core curriculum, and in a TSFP seminar class
which conveys the excitement of current
scientific discoveries and provides a setting for
community-building among the students. The pace
of the 6-week summer session is extremely rapid,
which is good preparation for the 10-week
academic quarter that the Fellows will encounter
in the months ahead. During their junior
academic year, Fellows enroll in a 1-unit seminar
class that introduces them to the range of
biological disciplines at UCD and connects them
with research opportunities. This seminar course
involves a variety of experiences for the
students, including presentation of oral reports
on scientific issues and their own laboratory
research experiences, discussion of research in
the primary literature, preparation for taking
the GRE, development of interview skills, and
interaction with campus units that are important
sources of advice and other student services.
Evaluation of program success To justify their
continuation, as well as to identify new
approaches and improvements that can be applied
when appropriate, it is important to continually
evaluate the success of each program that
comprises our overall effort to increase the
participation of under-represented students in
biomedical research careers. BUSP Of the
programs discussed, BUSP has the longest track
record and has been the most comprehensively
evaluated. Recent formal evaluation indicates
that BUSP has worked exceptionally well in
improving early academic performance. BUSP
students consistently out-perform non-BUSP
students in the general chemistry classes by
0.5-1.1 grade points. For example, last year
('99-'00) the BUSP freshmen earned an average GPA
of 3.29 in CHE 2A (the first in the general
chemistry series) versus the 2.18 average GPA of
the non-BUSP students. Similar gains for BUSP
students are seen in the calculus courses as a
result of the supplemental calculus course work.
Further, the strategy of formal, organized study
groups and workshops in chemistry and biology has
been effective for BUSP sophomores. Typically,
students who participate in the biology study
groups earn grades one-third to two-thirds of a
gradepoint (eg., B versus C) higher than their
peers in introductory biology the pre-organic
chemistry workshop participants show similar
gains. We have begun our evaluation of overall
long-term BUSP efficacy by analyzing graduation
data on the 397 BUSP students who entered the
program from 1988 to 1994, using 6-year
graduation rates. Of these students, 67 were
female, 56 were Hispanic, 26 were African
American, 5 were Native American, and 13 were
Filipino/ Asian American/Other. The data from
this evaluation serves as our baseline for
setting future program goals and objectives. We
have found that 271 of the 397 (68) earned
baccalaureates from UC Davis - 133 (34)
graduated with biology baccalaureates, and 47
(17) graduated with biology baccalaureates and
GPA's of 3.0-or-greater. From a survey of BUSP
alumni, we have learned that many have pursued
post-graduate education. The following numbers
of BUSP graduates are either in, or have already
completed, these programs 13 Ph.D., 29
M.D./O.D., 2 M.D./Ph.D., 3 D.D.S., 2 D.V.M., 4
graduate nursing programs, 28 masters programs
(various disciplines), and 21 teaching
credentials. These achievements are noteworthy
because many of these students are the first in
their families to finish high school, let alone
attend college, and many entered college
requiring remedial course work in math and/or
English. Research participation is a major
component of the BUSP design, but is not
mandatory. BUSP students have been encouraged to
begin work in a research laboratory as early as
possible, often in the freshman year. To
determine whether research experience is
important to student persistence and performance
in biology, we compared the academic performance
of the 275 BUSP students who had a research
experience with the 119 BUSP students who did
not, using a multivariate analysis that controls
for demographic variables (sex, ethnicity), and
academic preparation variables (high school GPA,
math and verbal SAT scores, EOP status, and
admissions status - special action/regular
admission) through logistic regression modeling.
The multivariate analysis allows us to look at
one independent variable at a time, compensating
for the influence of all other variables. 
Participation in a research experience
significantly enhanced student success. All
other variables being equal, students who
participated in research were nearly twice as
likely to graduate (in any major) from UC Davis
and had nearly four times the chance of
graduating with a major in Biology (p.0002).
Most strikingly, research experience was
associated with 7.16 fold increase in the chances
of students graduating in Biology with a
cumulative UCD GPA of 3.0-or-higher (p.0147).
These data emphasize the importance of research
involvement in the students' academic program.
Our results also indicate that research
experience appears to be a distraction in the
first years, but an extensive research experience
is a definite plus for more advanced students,
leading to higher graduation rates. Multiple
terms of research are also strongly associated
with persistence in biology majors. These
results have clear implications for program
design. They underscore the importance of
research in the undergraduate biology curriculum
for our population of under-represented and
disadvantaged students. However, in the future,
we will postpone research until the sophomore or
junior year, and prepare the students better for
it by introducing a laboratory methods course for
BUSP freshmen. BUSP's goal is to increase the
number of eligible students who are qualified for
and choose careers in biology. Does the success
we have measured in the early years predict
successful completion of biology degrees and is
participation in the program responsible? To
answer this question, we are comparing the BUSP
group with 877 non-participants of the same
ethnic groups who entered UCD in the same years,
selecting the same majors. The comparison group
has, on average, better academic preparation than
the students who elected to participate in BUSP
higher high school GPAs (3.57 vs 3.37), higher
math SATs (523 vs 498) and verbal SATs (458 vs
417). To make a valid comparison of the two
groups, and determine the effect of group
membership, it is necessary to use multivariate
logistic regression to control for the
differences in demographics and academic
preparation. The raw data indicate that BUSP
students graduated from UCD at essentially the
same rate as the comparison group 68 for BUSP
and 69 for the comparison group. However, once
the influence of all other variables in the model
is omitted, participation in BUSP has a
significant impact on whether students graduate
with a major in a biological science. BUSP
membership increases the odds of a student
graduating with a degree in biology by 1.42 fold
(42 increase, p.0066). BUSP appears to be
effective in helping students graduate in biology
majors, but does it enable them to be competitive
applicants to graduate and professional schools?
Here the results are more equivocal. Holding all
other variables in the model constant,
participation in BUSP is associated with a 1.47
fold (47) increase in the odds of graduating
with a biology major and a GPA gt 3.0. However,
the p-value is .0926, which suggests marginal
statistical significance. In 1995, we began a
series of changes in the program to increase the
rates at which students graduated with life
sciences baccalaureates and with the strong
academic performance (cumulative GPA gt 3.0)
necessary for competitive application to graduate
and professional programs. Specifically, we
created a deferral option for students with
inadequate math and language preparation.
Instead of enrolling in the rigorous BUSP
freshman curriculum of chemistry, calculus,
biology, and supplemental coursework, these
students spend the freshman year honing their
math and language skills, and meeting regularly
with BUSP advisors who monitor their academic
performance and progress. Provided that they
make satisfactory progress in their studies
(minimum GPA of 2.3 in math and language courses
minimum GPA of 2.8, overall), they are admitted
to BUSP in the Fall Quarter of their second year.
We are also poised to begin a second series of
changes in the BUSP curriculum (deferral of
research laboratory work until sophomore year
institution of a laboratory methods course). We
predict that such changes will further increase
graduation rates and positive outcomes in
biology.  TSFP Although a comprehensive
long-term analysis of TSFP has not yet been
completed, some indication of the success of this
program has been obtained through ad hoc
comparisons of student performance. For example,
the TSFP entering classes of summer 1995 and 1996
completed their first year with an average
cumulative GPA of 3.14, which compares favorably
with the GPA of 2.81 achieved by the other 618
biology transfer students in those classes.
Likewise, the performance of TSFP students in the
summer genetics course has consistently been
equal or better than that of the class as a
whole. In this respect, it is important to note
that TSFP is not an honors program students are
selected based on factors suggesting that they
are at-risk for experiencing transition
difficulty during their first year. Thus, their
performance would seem to indicate a positive
effect of the program. To determine if
participation in TSFP results in increased
participation in research careers, particularly
for under-represented students, we will begin
formal evaluation of the program during the
coming year . IMSD Because the IMSD-supported
activities did not begin until 1998, we do not
yet have a cohort of students who have completed
their doctorates. However, as a means of
assessing our efficacy in meeting the goals of
this grant, we can report on our progress with
respect to the following objectives that were in
the original application. (1) Development of
scientific communication skills. During the first
three years of the IMSD award, we have provided
support for 21 under-represented students either
as entering or continuing doctoral students in
various areas of the life sciences. Of these,
76 are female 19 are African American, 52 are
Hispanic, 5 are Native American, and 24 are
Filipino/Other. Each of these students completed
at least one intensive laboratory rotation for
the equivalent of 7 weeks. Each student made at
least four oral presentations that were critiqued
by their peers as well as by participating
faculty and advanced graduate students. In
addition, each student, working with a faculty
mentor, wrote a predoctoral fellowship
application that was then critiqued by the group.
Each student also participated in several
workshops (1) oral presentation skills and
composition of effective visual aids (2) the use
of software to generate a stimulating and
professional presentation (3) mechanics of
generating an effective poster presentation and
(4) use of EndNote software in building a
reference library and in managing references
lists for use in report/manuscript citation
listings. (2) Creation of a supportive group
culture among IMSD students and faculty. We have
taken a three-fold approach to developing a
supportive group culture. First, we solicited
several faculty mentors to attend the summer
bridge program meetings and to mentor a specific
first-year Fellow by providing professional
advice regarding academic programs as well as
scientific skills development (e.g., the written
assignment). In addition, each of the Fellows
completed at least one research rotation with a
faculty member. Second, in years 2 and 3 we have
included two advanced IMSD Fellows in the group
meetings. The advanced Fellows have discussed
their relevant graduate school experiences and
provided constructive critiques of the oral and
written work of the new Fellows. Our third
approach has been to provide a group setting in
which the Fellows feel comfortable constructively
critiquing each other's written and oral
assignments, and frankly discussing any questions
and problems that have arisen. (3) Successful
advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. We have
had considerable success with our students
passing their qualifying exams and being advanced
to Ph. D. candidacy. Of the 21 students we have
supported since the inception of this award,
eight have taken and passed their qualifying exam
on the first attempt, eight are second year
students, and three are first year students. Two
have transferred from Ph.D. to M.S. programs and
are expected to complete their thesis/exam work
by the end of this academic year.
Efforts to Increase the Number of
Under-Represented Students Supported by the
Training Grant in Molecular and Cellular Biology
(T32-GM07377) The UC Davis Training Grant in
Molecular and Cellular Biology supports students
in their second, third and fourth years of
graduate study, and thus is not directly involved
in the recruitment of the first-year students who
comprise the pool from which its trainees are
selected. However, the diversity of this pool
obviously has an important impact on the ability
of the program to increase the number of
under-represented trainees. The members of the
Training Grant have responded to this challenge
in a number of ways. (1) Service of trainers on
Admissions Committees. Trainers in the NIH/MCB
Training Grant, including members of our
Executive Committee, serve on the recruitment and
admissions committees of many of the relevant
Graduate Groups. In this capacity, we have made
a special effort to identify under-represented
students who are good matches for the campus in
general, and for our NIH/MCB Training Grant
Program in particular. These students are
aggressively encouraged to visit the campus and
to meet with faculty (both Trainers and
non-Trainers). We have had very good success in
arranging these visits. The visits are followed
by telephone calls from the faculty in whom the
students are interested, and from members of the
admissions and recruitment committees. The
success of this approach is clearly dependent on
the diversity of the graduate program applicant
pool. Programs such as BUSP and TSFP, described
above, are contributing to this goal, although
not in a manner targeted specifically towards
enrollment at UC Davis. Graduates of BUSP and
TSFP are encouraged to apply to whatever graduate
programs best match their scientific interests
and personal needs, and therefore contribute to
the diversity of the applicant pool for graduate
programs, nationwide. (2) Efforts to identify
and recruit under-represented minority students
to Trainer laboratories, and to the NIH/MCB
Training Grant Program. The NIH/MCB Training
Grant makes a special effort to invite
under-represented students in their first year of
graduate school to our annual Retreat, held in
October shortly after the beginning of the school
year. Our goal is to increase the Training
Program's visibility to these new graduate
students, and to introduce them to the Training
Program faculty, post-doctoral investigators, and
students. In this fashion, we have welcomed and
encouraged under-represented students to pursue
rotations in Trainers' laboratories, and to
consider these laboratories as appropriate and
supportive environments in which to pursue their
doctorates. This past year, the directors of the
NIH/MCB Training Grant Program and of the NIH/UC
Davis IMSD program have devised a method of
synergizing these awards to the advantage of both
the students and the programs. The IMSD program,
which focuses on outreach to under-represented
minorities, will play a central role in
identifying prospective graduate students,
encouraging their application to UC Davis
graduate programs, and supporting these students
- financially and by peer-group and faculty
mentoring - during their first years of graduate
school. The Training Grant will ensure that
NIH/MCB Trainers interview the prospective IMSD
students, and we will continue our program of
inviting the first-year IMSD Fellows to the
Retreat. We thereby hope to increase further
these students' contact with appropriate Trainer
laboratories (for rotations and for dissertation
projects), and to help the IMSD Fellows network
with the larger campus biological sciences
community. We anticipate that this early
increased visibility of the NIH/MCB Training
Grant will encourage more of these students to
join Trainers' labs. (3) Selection of trainees.
The Executive Committee of the Training Grant
repeatedly communicates to the NIH/MCB Trainers
the importance of nominating under-represented
students for the award. When under-represented
minority students are being considered for
Traineeships, the Executive Committee of the
NIH/MCB Training Grant Program gives these
candidates special attention, recognizing the
non-traditional backgrounds and/or differences in
access to prior training or education that some
of these candidates have had.  Specific effort
will be made to consider IMSD Fellows for Trainee
positions on the NIH/MCB Training Grant. In some
cases, second year IMSD Fellows may compete
successfully for positions on the Training Grant,
allowing IMSD to use the funds released to create
additional slots for incoming students. Thus,
IMSD will be freer to "take a chance" on those
students with somewhat weaker formal academic
backgrounds or with non-traditional career paths.
Third and fourth year IMSD students will also be
encouraged strongly to apply for training grant
positions. The NIH/MCB Training Grant, on the
other hand, will be able to raise our visibility
to under-represented students, and will have a
defined program by which suitable students can be
identified early, and strongly encouraged to
apply for NIH/MCB Training Grant support. We
anticipate that in this fashion, even those
students with non-traditional career backgrounds
will have a much stronger ability to compete for
Traineeships, because they will have had one or
two years of intensive skills-building training
(IMSD) as well as research experience in a
Trainer's laboratory. 
First Second Year Graduate Students - the
NIH-IMSD Fellows Program Although the first year
of graduate school is an exciting time for
students as they expand their knowledge and
perspectives, it is also a difficult time of
transition. Most newly admitted graduate
students are on their own -- learning the ropes,
struggling with course work, and competing for
financial support and positions in the best
research laboratories on campus. Few develop a
mentoring relationship with faculty in their
first months. In addition, because some Graduate
Groups have only limited funding for first- and
second- year students (relying heavily on
Teaching Assistantships to fund young students),
financial support can be a problem until students
have selected a major professor and are
established in a research laboratory. While
being a TA can provide valuable teaching
experience, the extensive time commitment
required for teaching slows the students'
academic progress. Thus, the transition period
during the early years of graduate school can be
difficult and discouraging, causing a number of
students to withdraw from school before selecting
a major professor. Under-represented students at
UC Davis are more likely to face transition
problems because many come from low-income
families that are unable to cushion a financial
crisis. In addition, some of these students may
have inadequate academic preparation requiring
considerably more effort in course work and
resulting in their being less competitive for
choice research laboratory placements.
Under-represented students are also more likely
to feel isolated because their academic peer
group (i.e., the entering class in their graduate
group) will have few, if any, other minority
students, and they are unlikely to come into
contact with minority students from other
graduate groups during their first year. To
address these problems, an enrichment program was
developed for entering graduate students that
begins in the summer before graduate school
begins and continues throughout the following two
academic years. The program has three major
goals (1) to help graduate student participants
develop scientific communication skills early in
their academic careers (2) to develop a
supportive group culture among IMSD students and
faculty and (3) to ensure that IMSD students
will successfully pass their qualifying
examinations and advance to candidacy for the
Ph.D. Each NIH-IMSD award provides living
expenses plus all tuition and student fees for
the first two years of graduate school, as well
as support during a summer bridge program
preceding the first year. The program begins
with a summer "bridge" experience that begins in
August preceding the first year of graduate
school. Summer bridge activities include a
seven-week research rotation in the laboratory of
a faculty member, weekly group meetings, and
interactions between the Fellow and a faculty
mentor (independent of the research sponsor).
The faculty mentor is not only available for
advice, but also helps the Fellow with his or her
summer writing assignment, which includes
preparation of the research portion of a
pre-doctoral fellowship application. Fellows
have an opportunity to interact with research
experts on campus, learn about campus resources,
and hone their presentation skills (both oral and
written). Each student gives two oral
presentations about their ongoing summer research
projects -- one approximately midway through the
rotation and one at the end of the summer
program. These presentations are critiqued by the
other students, as well as by attending faculty.
IMSD Fellows report that they have found the
summer bridge program to be especially effective
in helping them to make the transition to
graduate school. The ability to be engaged in
research and group activities without being
concerned with course work or finances prepares
them well for the ensuing academic year. After
completion of the summer bridge program, weekly
group meetings continue throughout the IMSD
Fellows' first academic year. To some degree,
these meetings are tailored to the backgrounds of
the students. Topics covered include instruction
on computer and library search techniques
scientific writing and speaking group critique
of students' written fellowship proposals,
abstracts and/or manuscripts and,
reading/discussion of published papers relating
to experimental design. First-year Fellows give
oral presentations on their research projects,
and faculty give presentations on emerging areas
in research. Throughout the year, Fellows are
advised by a faculty member who is also a member
of the program's steering committee. To help the
Fellows build on the oral presentation skills
developed during the first year and to build
cohesion among the Fellows, this program
continues into their second year. The advanced
students are assisted in preparing for their
qualifying exams by making research presentations
to the faculty and first-year Fellows. In some
cases, second-year students may be supported by
alternative funding sources, such as the Training
Grant in Molecular and Cellular Biology, or other
extramural research grants. The success of these
students then releases IMSD funds to be used in
support of additional first-year Fellows.
Lower Division Undergraduate Students - the BUSP
/ IMSD Program Increasing the pool of
under-represented minority students both
interested in and prepared for graduate-level
studies in the biomedical sciences is an
essential prerequisite to increasing the
diversity of the biomedical research workforce.
Entering freshmen at a research university such
as UC Davis are often overwhelmed by the
intensity of the introductory science curriculum.
If these students have discouraging experiences
in the early science course work, there is a
strong possibility that they will change fields,
and be lost permanently from the pool of students
who might eventually enter biomedical sciences
graduate programs. It is therefore essential that
efforts be made to identify such students early
in their college experience, and to assist and
nurture them in their initial experiences with
the university-level science curriculum. The
Biology Undergraduate Scholars Program (BUSP) at
UC Davis, now in its thirteenth year of
operation, is a large-scale professional
development program for under-represented
minority and disadvantaged students interested in
biology. The premises of BUSP are that (1)
solid academic preparation and positive
experiences early in the undergraduate career
provide the foundation on which to build future
success and, (2) excitement about science and
interest in scientific careers are best kindled
by active early involvement in science. BUSP
takes a comprehensive approach to assisting
students to thrive at UCD by providing
preparatory and supplemental academic instruction
in chemistry, calculus and biology sound
academic and personal advising and, practical
experience through employment in research
laboratories. The majority of program
resources are devoted to the freshman and
sophomore years. To date, the program has
provided enrichment activities to over 800
students. There are currently over two hundred
active BUSP students eighty percent of them are
from under-represented groups. To date, 233
different UCD biology faculty from the Division
of Biological Sciences, the College of
Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, the
Medical School and the School of Veterinary
Medicine, have sponsored BUSP students. BUSP
students regularly present their research at the
UCD Undergraduate Research Conference and at
regional and national meetings. To reinforce the
pipeline from college to graduate school, we
actively encourage BUSP students to attend summer
programs at this and other campuses. The program
features the following elements. (1) Freshman
year, Fall quarter. Students take a rigorous
pre-chemistry course, an appropriate math course
plus supplemental math coursework, and the BUSP
theme course, Biological Sciences (BIS) 11A. BIS
11A ("Issues in Modern Biology") focuses on
important topics in biology (e.g., HIV and AIDS)
and their scientific, cultural, economic, and
global ramifications. As well as serving as a
forum for community-building, BIS 11A helps
students learn important skills such as team work
(the major project for the course features team
written and oral presentations), critical and
analytical thinking, and hypothesis
negation.  (2) Freshman year, Winter and Spring
quarters. Students take the first two general
chemistry courses, Chemistry 2A (Winter) and 2B
(Spring), along with the accompanying
supplemental chemistry coursework. They continue
their progress in mathematics, assisted by the
extra problem-solving experience gained through
supplemental math coursework. During the
mandatory quarterly advising sessions, the
students are strongly encouraged to choose
additional courses that feature writing
assignments (e.g. English composition). (3)
Freshman summer. Students attend the first
six-week summer session, enrolling in Chemistry
2C, the last in the general chemistry series,
along with a more rigorous accompanying
supplemental chemistry course. A recent
innovation is the addition of a molecular
laboratory skills course to the summer
curriculum. By developing their basic lab skills,
the BUSP students will be in a much stronger
position to undertake constructive participation
in undergraduate research projects in individual
mentor's laboratories, and thereby enjoy a more
meaningful and intense research experience at an
earlier stage of the undergraduate career.
Participation in laboratory research is a crucial
element in developing the commitment to a
research career that will carry these students
onward to graduate school.   (4) Sophomore year.
In keeping with our goal to have students become
more independent, BUSP has traditionally been
less structured in the sophomore year. Instead
of staff-intensive supplemental instruction, the
emphasis is on students learning to develop and
use study groups effectively. BUSP sophomores
enrolled in introductory biology (fall and winter
quarters) meet weekly in teaching
assistant-facilitated groups to discuss course
material, and there is an optional workshop in
organic chemistry taught by advanced BUSP
students. As well as providing students with
supplemental, guided instruction in these
important subjects, the workshops reinforce the
concept that both learning about and doing
science are most effectively accomplished through
teamwork. To maintain and reinforce the BUSP
scholarly community, there is a year-long seminar
course in which sophomore students build their
oral and written communication skills in the
context of learning about science and science
careers. This course also features a community
service activity. For the past three years, BUSP
students working in teams have served as
instructors, mentors and friends to encourage
middle school students from a Sacramento middle
school to attend college (see photo at right).
Many of the younger students are from minority or
disadvantaged families, and are unlikely to
finish high school, let alone attend college.
Because many BUSP students are from similar
backgrounds, they are good role models and
mentors for the younger students. Such
activities not only allow BUSP students to give
back to their communities, but also reinforce the
concept of using team-work to accomplish a common
goal. (5) Junior and senior years. To further
stimulate student interest in research careers
and to enrich the research experience for our
best BUSP-eligible students, we devised BUSP
Honors Research (HR) for advanced (junior,
senior) student researchers. This is a selective
two year, research-based program. During the
summer, participants conduct 10 weeks of
intensive, faculty-supervised research, and
attend a special weekly seminar. During the
academic year, students continue their research
and meet weekly for the seminar course. This
course helps students develop as scientists
through skills-building activities (journal club,
seminar attendance, oral and written research
presentations, attendance at national research
meetings, formal GRE preparation courses,
curriculum vitae preparation) and career
exploration activities (discussions with
academic, governmental and industrial research
scientists, as well as with criminologists and
forensic geneticists and field trips to various
research environments). Workshops in grant
proposal writing were added recently. To attract
more high-achieving minority student researchers,
BUSP HR is open to all BUSP-eligible students,
not only those who entered BUSP as freshmen
community college transfer students are
especially encouraged to apply.
BUSP student Tolulope Olupona (currently in MD
program at NYU) presenting a poster at the 1995
Undergraduate Research Conference to BUSP
students Roberto Rodriguez (currently in grad
school in biology at MIT) and John Perea
(currently doing postgraduate research at UC
Davis)
BUSP students visiting Kit Carson middle school
in Sacramento, California as part of their
community service activities during the sophomore
year.
Conclusions and Impact on the Molecular and
Cellular Biology Training Grant Ultimately, the
diversity of the training grant membership is
dependent on the diversity of the pool of
graduate students upon which we draw. At present,
there is strong competition among different
universities for the limited number of
under-represented students who do apply to
graduate school. Programs such as BUSP and TSFP,
and similar programs at other universities,
should lead in the future to increasing levels of
diversity in the graduate student applicant pool.
UC Davis has had some success in attracting
under-represented graduate school applicants in
the biological sciences. However, the Training
Grant has not been uniformly successful in
getting these students to apply for positions in
the program. The past two years have been
particularly troubling. In 1999/2000, we had 27
nominations for Traineeships (16 Male, 11 Female
6 self-identified as Asian, 21 as White). In
2000/2001, we had 20 nominations for Traineeships
(14 Male, 6 Female with 6 self-identified as
Asian, 14 self-identified as White). As a result,
none of our current Trainees are from an
under-represented minority group. In response
to this disturbing situation, we undertook an
analysis of why under-represented students were
not being put forward as candidates for training
grant membership. The major reason uncovered was
that, in essence, we were competing internally
with other sources of funding for
under-represented students, including support
from the NIH/UC Davis Initiative For Minority
Development (IMSD) Training Grant, supplemental
funding on principal investigators' RO1 grants,
and individual Underrepresented Minority
Fellowships. Many of these alternative sources
of support have financial advantages to the
principal investigator's laboratory, or to the
student, that the NIH/MCB Training Grant could
not match. In some cases, a disincentive for
applying to the NIH/MCB Training Grant was simply
the "effort" of applying to a new program versus
the ease of maintaining the status quo of
pre-existing support. The situation shows some
sign of improvement as a result of our increased
level of interaction with the IMSD program, as
discussed above. This year (2001-2002), the
applicant pool for the Training Grant includes 2
nominations (out of a total pool of 25) from
under-represented minority students, both of whom
have participated in the IMSD program, and both
of whom are strong candidates for Training Grant
support. By increasing the outreach efforts of
the Training Grant to under-represented students
already on campus, and by continuing and
expanding other efforts, such as BUSP and TSFP,
we hope to continue to improve the participation
of historically under-represented populations in
the exciting field of biomedical research in the
years ahead.
The effect of Proposition 209 on minority support
programs in California and the critical role of
the NIH-IMSD program. Because it forbids
consideration of race or ethnicity in admission
to California universities and colleges,
California State Proposition 209, which went into
effect in 1997, severely limits the methods by
which past inequities in educational opportunity
can be corrected. Institutionally-funded
programs that were once targeted exclusively to
under-represented students now must be equally
open to all disadvantaged students who are
members of the EOP (Educational Opportunities
Program) pool, which includes a majority of Asian
and Caucasian students (many recent immigrants),
as well as under-represented minority students.
State or privately-funded programs may no longer
specifically select for under-represented
minority students. However, because Proposition
209 defers to federal funding, programs having
such funding that mandate affirmative action can
use race/ethnicity as a selection criterion.
Thus, IMSD funding allows us to select directly
for under-represented students, thereby
maintaining a scholarly community substantially
enriched for minority students united by their
common interest in biology.  Currently, our
IMSD-sponsored undergraduate programs (BUSP and
TSFP) are the only federally-funded UC Davis
minority support programs exclusively serving
life sciences undergraduates. IMSD funds are
used to increase the under-represented minority
student population in BUSP and TSFP - both of
which are also receive major funding from the
Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), as well
as support from the Genentech Foundation.
Specifically, IMSD funding has allowed us to
reserve 20 of the 65 slots in BUSP, 6 of the 12
spots in BUSP Honors Research (BUSP HR), and 6 of
the 24 spots in TSFP for under-represented
minority students. In addition, portions of the
salaries for key personnel (e.g., the BUSP
chemistry instructor and the BUSP director) are
funded by IMSD.
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