The NIH Research Education Program (R25) supports research educational activities that complement other formal training programs in the mission areas of the NIH Institutes and Centers. The over-arching goals of the NIH R25 program are to: (1) complement and/or enhance the training of a workforce to meet the nation’s biomedical, behavioral and clinical research needs; (2) enhance the diversity of the biomedical, behavioral and clinical research workforce; (3) help recruit individuals with specific specialty or disciplinary backgrounds to research careers in biomedical, behavioral and clinical sciences; and (4) foster a better understanding of biomedical, behavioral and clinical research and its implications.
The over-arching goal of this National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) R25 program is to support educational activities that enhance the diversity of the biomedical research workforce through early preparation for undergraduate students in STEM fields. Participants should be from diverse backgrounds and interested in ultimately pursuing a Ph.D. or M.D./Ph. D. degree and a biomedical research career in academia or industry. The program activities will take place starting in the summer before the freshman year and ending in the summer following the sophomore year. At that time, participants will be expected to enter an Advanced Honors Program for juniors and seniors which aims to prepare high-achieving, underrepresented students for doctoral programs in biomedical research fields. Therefore, only institutions with a diversity honors program, such as a MARC U-STAR (T34) program or an institutional program with similar goals, active at the time of application, are eligible to apply.
NIBIB Interest in Diversity
The mission of the NIBIB is to improve human health by leading the development and accelerating the application of biomedical technologies. NIBIB is committed to increasing the participation and success of racial and ethnic minorities and other underrepresented populations in engineering and the biological, computational, and physical sciences. To this end, the institute develops and supports programs that enhance the recruitment, retention, training, and career development of underrepresented minorities, people with disabilities, and people from disadvantaged backgrounds across the career continuum into the biomedical workforce. NIBIB’s proactive approach to ensuring a diverse and sustainable biomedical workforce is to develop innovative programs that target roadblocks at critical transition points in the biomedical research pipeline that hinder the participation of underrepresented populations. The ESTEEMED program seeks to facilitate the training of students underrepresented in STEM fields, i.e. racial or ethnic minorities and people with disabilities, who intend to focus on NIBIB’s mission areas later in their careers.
Need for the Program
Racial and ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities (PWD) are critically underrepresented in the science in engineering fields. The 2017 NSF report “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering” (https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2017/nsf17310/digest/about-this-report/) indicates that ~38% of the United States resident population aged 18-64 identified as a racial or ethnic minority. However, students from racial and ethnic minorities comprised only ~20% of the students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in a science and engineering field, and only ~8% of these graduated with a doctoral degree. This demonstrates a need for an intervention to encourage more students from underrepresented groups to continue on to doctorate degrees and successful research careers. A 2012 report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recommended support of programs to retain underrepresented undergraduate science, technology, engineering and math students as a means to effectively build a diverse and competitive scientific workforce (PCAST Report, 2012).
To accomplish the stated over-arching goal, this FOA will support creative educational activities with a primary focus on:
The outcomes of an earlier NIBIB contract-based program have emphasized that pre-admission summer bridge programs; strong mentoring by faculty, peers, alumni, and family; community building activities; and early exposure to biomedical research are critical elements for attracting, retaining, and preparing diversity students in STEM fields for subsequent biomedical research careers. Therefore, the NIBIB requires these program elements in the current Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).
The program supported by this FOA must contain at least three elements: a summer bridge program that occurs before the start of the freshman year, a program for freshmen and sophomores during the academic year, and a summer research experience after the sophomore academic year. Ideally, at the completion of this program, participants will enter into an independent Honors Program for juniors and seniors at the applicant institution.
1. Summer Bridge Program
The main focus of the Summer Bridge Program is to prepare participants for their first year of college, introduce them to this R25 program, and to provide remedial instruction to participants to bridge gaps in their knowledge. It must take place during the summer before the freshman year, last at least five weeks, and emphasize basic sciences, computation, and science communication.
Rising sophomores are encouraged to mentor incoming participants in the Summer Bridge Program in the summer between their freshman and sophomore years.
2. Academic Year Activities
In addition to continuing to emphasize basic sciences, computation, and science communication, the Academic Year Activities should help participants maximize their academic performance and prepare them for summer research experiences and eventual entry into an Advanced Honors Program. Academic year activities should include, but are not limited to, courses, journal clubs, individual development plans for each participant, seminars/workshops, professional development programs, and travel to national meetings. Activities such as workshops on scientific presentation and writing, that promote scientific communication skills, are highly encouraged. There should be an increasing sophistication in these activities as participants proceed from the freshman to the sophomore year.
3. Summer Research Experience
At the end of their sophomore year, each participant is expected to take part in a hands-on summer research experience that involves a defined research project and includes a final oral presentation and written report of their work. This could take place in an on-campus laboratory or be an off-campus research experience for high achieving undergraduate students, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates Summer Programs (REU) program, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)-sponsored Janelia Undergraduate Scholars Program, or an industry internship. The Summer Research Experience is expected to last at least eight weeks or the majority of the summer.
Participants are encouraged to engage in an on- or off-campus summer research experience between the freshman and sophomore year. However, program funds will only be provided for the Summer Research Experience after the sophomore year.
Linkage to Advanced Honors Program
The program to be supported with this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is intended as a feeder program that prepares participants for entry into an Advanced Honors Program for underrepresented juniors and seniors in STEM fields. This ensures that participants will have a full four years of support throughout their undergraduate education. Applicants are therefore required to describe the feeder program, the existing Advanced Honors Program, and the linkage between the two programs.
Goals of Program, Identification of Evaluation Metrics and Sunset Provisions
Research education programs may complement ongoing research training and education occurring at the applicant institution, but the proposed educational experiences must be distinct from those training and education programs currently receiving Federal support. R25 programs may augment institutional research training programs (e.g., T32, T90) but cannot be used to replace or circumvent Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) programs.