Miami University has been awarded $800,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a program to provide research and mentoring experience to prepare underrepresented minority students for graduate school in the biological sciences.
Undergraduate Research and Mentoring in the Biological Sciences (URM): Achieving Success in Science Through Undergraduate Research Experiences (ASSURE) is a five-year initiative beginning Sept. 1 led by principal investigator Joyce Fernandes, associate professor of zoology, and co-principal investigator Phyllis Callahan, associate dean of the College of Arts and Science and professor of zoology.
The URM program will recruit 12 undergraduates each year for the next five years. Major goals of the program include increasing the number of underrepresented minority students recruited into the biological sciences; enhancing the preparation of students to enable them to successfully enter and remain in graduate programs; and building a foundation to sustain the program at Miami.
As a first step, NSF funds will be used to support each student for the first two years with Miami then providing support for an additional two years.
URM scholars will choose projects from among the research programs of 30 faculty in the departments of chemistry and biochemistry, botany, microbiology and zoology. URM projects in molecular cell biology will address how cells respond to their environment and how this results in outcomes such as regulation of gene expression.
Programs for the recruitment of URM scholars will be developed in collaboration with Miami's office of admissions and the Discovery Center, targeting high schools that have high enrollments of underrepresented groups, including African Americans, Alaska Natives, American Indians, Hispanic Americans, Native Pacific Islanders and persons with disabilities.
Other goals, including first year programs for academic enrichment, living learning communities, sustained mentoring, a rigorous curriculum in molecular cell biology and learning communities for faculty involved in the program will help ensure retention of students.
An NSF reviewer described the program as at "...the forefront of a new initiative, making a unique contribution to recruiting underrepresented students into a stellar scientific environment for undergraduate research".
For more information, go to www.muohio.edu/urm_assure.