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Grant to Recruit Transfer Students in Sciences

Grant to Recruit Transfer Students in Sciences


Backed by a $1.4 million federal grant, the University of Illinois at Chicago will launch a new program to increase the number of underrepresented students who pursue degrees and research careers in the behavioral and biomedical sciences.  The five-year grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health, partners UIC with the City Colleges of Chicago in an effort to bolster recruitment, training, mentorship, and degree completion in health-related fields for students from underrepresented backgrounds.

 Beginning in 2014, UIC’s Behavioral and Biomedical Sciences Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program will recruit 58 students, 18 in the first year and 10 in each of the remaining four years, who qualify to transfer to UIC from the City Colleges. Participants will pursue their UIC degree in one of three areas aligned with their research and career interests: nursing; public health; or liberal arts and sciences, in subject areas such as biology, chemistry, psychology or physics.

 “Researchers from underrepresented populations are in high demand, given persistent societal health disparities,” said UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares, the grant’s principal investigator.

“As one of the most diverse universities in the nation, UIC is well-positioned, and eager, to offer this program that will give transfer students from underrepresented backgrounds the skills to be successful not only in their academic career, but as professional health scientists,” Allen-Meares said.

 The program will offer students an intensive summer research skills workshop, an assigned research mentor, access to peer-tutors, and support for science and academic skill development through group activities. A health science conference is also being planned.

 “This program will provide under-represented minority students with those tools to examine the full range of the social/economic/cultural/political/behavioral/biological determinants of health disparities over the full life course of individuals,” said Paul Brandt-Rauf, dean of the UIC School of Public Health.  “This is particularly important for UIC SPH because we are committed to eliminating health disparities, and these students will be the ones most motivated and best equipped to accomplish that goal in their communities.”

 Students selected for the program will begin preparation for baccalaureate studies at the conclusion of their freshman year. The program’s public health track seeks to advance knowledge and skills not only in basic sciences, but in two disciplines — epidemiology and biostatistics — that are considered critical to understanding public health problems.  “Successfully addressing health disparities requires a diverse public health work force that more fully understands the underlying forces in society that create and perpetuate those disparities and a work force that is also well-versed in the public health tools that demonstrate their impact on the health of populations, such as epidemiology and biostatistics,” said Brandt-Rauf.

 “This program will enhance the students’ basic research skills, such as quantitative and qualitative analysis, critical thinking and innovation,” Allen-Meares said. ”These skills, and the capacity for leadership and collaboration, will be gained by working alongside faculty members in their respective programs.”

 Retention and graduation rates will be tracked during and after the funding period to gauge the success of the program’s student support system.  The participants’ educational and career paths after graduation will be followed to gauge the program’s success in elevating the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds that enter graduate programs, receive doctoral degrees and pursue research careers.

 The program also aims to foster collaborations and professional development opportunities between UIC and City Colleges of Chicago faculty that will enhance the educational experience for participating students, Allen-Meares said. 

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