Vertically integrated, course-based undergraduate research experiences (CURE) structure a biomedical research certificate program that promotes inclusion

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FASEB J. 2022 May;36 Suppl 1. doi: 10.1096/fasebj.2022.36.S1.R6208.

ABSTRACT

Underrepresented mentors are key to influencing the trajectory of underrepresented students into research careers. Not only do they share lived experiences, but they can understand the unique challenges of navigating a predominantly white, ableist university. Undergraduate students often look to these mentors as role models for successful science careers, and these mentors can create supportive microenvironments for underrepresented students. Although first- and second-year classrooms provide broad access and are often the place of first contact with underrepresented faculty, teaching-focused teachers are less likely to have an active research agenda. Undergraduate research programs serving minorities can generate social stigma due to competing norms of science culture and embedded priming rhetoric. Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CURE) are often cited as a particularly promising approach to preparing and motivating undergraduates to pursue graduate studies that avoid stigma. However, genuine research projects can rarely be completed in a single semester, and CUREs are generally not designed to prepare students to enter particular research laboratories. Additionally, CUREs are typically only available in third and fourth years, have extensive prerequisites, and are limited to honors students (only 19% of underrepresented students in the five biomedical majors have enough GPA to be eligible for honors at TAMU). One-semester CUREs are insufficient to prepare underrepresented students for graduate school. The Biomedical Research Certificate (BRC) program provides vertically integrated CUREs to prepare undergraduate students for the next stage of their careers. A search certificate was created to address these considerations. The BRC is a multi-university program that enables undergraduate students to carry out research in collaborative teams, from the first year to the upper years. Open to all majors, it attracts diverse students from across the university interested in participating in multi-semester health research. Because there are no entry requirements (e.g. prerequisites or minimum GPA) and courses count towards study plans, this is the only program at TAMU in which there are no there are no barriers to participation in research from their first year. This access has radically expanded the research participation of lower division undergraduates. First-year students explore multiple research disciplines and join a particular research track in their second year. Built to meet the ever-growing needs of students and research laboratories, the BRC has grown to include research tracks in health disparities, computational biology, in vitro experimentation, research on topics humans, bioinformatics and neuroscience. These tracks not only engage undergraduate students in authentic research projects, but also provide the essential skills needed to take full advantage of opportunities through TAMU in the junior and senior years.

PMID:35555314 | DOI:10.1096/fasebj.2022.36.S1.R6208

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