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Diversity in science gets $2.5 million boost

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Beverly Clark

The NIH grant will support students from underrepresented groups pursuing doctorates and research careers in biological and biomedical sciences.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded the Laney Graduate School at Emory University a $2.5 million grant over three years to increase the number of undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented groups who complete doctorate degrees and enter the biological and biomedical sciences research workforce.  

In doing so, the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD) grant also will enhance the diversity of students in the Laney Graduate School's doctoral programs.  

The Emory IMSD will support eight undergraduates and eight graduate students in the first year, and 12 undergraduate and 16 graduate students in its second and third years. The program will be led by Keith Wilkinson, professor of biochemistry and director of the Laney Graduate School's Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (GDBBS), and Patricia Marsteller, professor of practice in biology and director of the Center for Science Education.  

"The long-range goal is to double the number of underrepresented undergraduates entering Ph.D. programs, and to significantly increase the number of underrepresented graduate students who complete Ph.D.'s at Emory," says Wilkinson.  

University-wide diversification   

In addition to the nine programs in the Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, participating graduate programs will include:

Students will receive research training in the laboratories of Emory faculty from across campus, including the:

The NIH IMSD program provides awards to research-intensive institutions that propose well-integrated developmental activities designed to increase students' academic preparation and skills that are critical to the completion of the Ph.D. degree in biomedical and behavioral sciences.  

According to Laney Graduate School Dean Lisa Tedesco, "the Emory IMSD program will advance diversity at a number of important levels: at the student level, both graduate and undergraduate, at the faculty level, by training future academic researchers and scholars, and at the professional level beyond the academy, by training those who go on to successful careers in the biological and biomedical sciences beyond the research university."   

Grant builds on existing science mentoring programs

"In addition to the financial support of students, the new program will formalize an 'Emory Pipeline' approach to student training, leveraging a number of existing programs at Emory that support the training of students from underrepresented groups," says Marsteller. "This will help ensure that each IMSD student has multiple mentors from different stages of training and research careers."   

As part of the "Pipeline" plan of existing programs, students in IMSD will interact with undergraduates in:

  • Summer Undergraduate Research Experience program  (SURE),
  • Hughes Undergraduates Excelling in Science program (HUES),
  • HHMI and Scholarly Inquiry and Research at Emory (SIRE) program;
  • withpost-baccalaureate students in the Preparatory Research Experience Post-baccalaureate program (PREP);
  • with graduate students supported by training grants; and
  • with postdoctoral fellows in the Fellowships in Research and Science Training program (FIRST) and training grant programs.  

Building upon Emory and the Laney Graduate School's commitment to diversity, an innovative aspect of the Emory IMSD program will be its collaboration with colleagues in the Emory Center for Faculty Development and Excellence and the new, recently funded Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) program. Emory IMSD will work with these groups to develop and implement mentoring best practices, including mentor training, with the goal of ensuring that students receive the highest possible quality of mentoring. 

"From the recently awarded NIH BEST grant and, now, the IMSD grant, we are strategically advancing our commitment to increase diversity and inclusion at Emory," says Tedesco. "We are inspired and emboldened that the national funding environment is taking notice of our faculty and leaders' efforts to see this commitment through with innovative programming that moves us all forward."

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