NSF Gives $533,000 to Address Minority Recruitment, UK Plays Integral Role

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 27, 2012) — The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) has been awarded a $533,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to address the recruitment and retention of under-represented minorities into graduate programs in the field of life sciences. Bessie Guerrant, associate director of the University of Kentucky Office of Undergraduate Research, is an executive board member on CUR, and is serving as principal investigator of the UK subcontract of the grant.  UK and Florida Southern College are the key academic institution partners.

"I will be responsible for programmatic logistics related to the scheduling of the new institutes, scheduling of cross-society presentations and staffing of the activities of the grant," said Guerrant, who has worked in programmatic forms of administration at UK since 1993, specifically in reform initiatives in math and science. "In this role, I will report directly to Dr. Elizabeth Ambos, CUR's executive officer, and Dr. Mary Crowe, CUR president-elect."

CUR is partnering with the Leadership Alliance Program (LA) and the American Physiological Society (APS), and Guerrant, along with the other project leaders, will leverage the societies' resources to develop innovative programming designed to identify talents in under-represented students. The goal is to provide mentoring at the successive stages in their educational pathways to insure a successful transition from one educational milestone to the next.

"Our approach is innovative in that it addresses the under-representation of minority students in biology and life sciences across the entire educational pathway, rather than treating each stage and transition in isolation," said Guerrant.

Ambos, executive officer of CUR and a co-principal investigator on the grant, said, "CUR is very pleased that this five-year project has received support from the NSF, is deeply appreciative of the opportunity to serve the life sciences community, and to work with partner organizations APS and TLA. The activities supported by the grant funding will make a significant contribution to broadening and diversifying the STEM pipeline in the life sciences disciplines."

National reports continue to highlight the urgency to increase the numbers of under-represented minorities in scientific fields.

 “We hope to directly impact more than 1,000 individuals from under-represented minority groups (URM) as a result of implementing the activities in our proposal, along with a significant number of individuals from non-URM groups," said Guerrant. "Most importantly we will develop a supportive community of faculty, administrators and staff committed to building capacity to broaden participation in the life sciences fields."

In 2011, CUR joined with the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), which hosts an annual conference where thousands of students present their research. UK hosted this conference in 2001, and will host again in 2014, bringing over 4,000 students from across the country and world to its campus.

"Undergraduate research is a practice that links strongly to access, retention, and career success, and CUR believes that the combined efforts of the project partners will be productive and catalytic," said Ambos.

About UK Office of Undergraduate Research
The UK Office of Undergraduate Research, led by director Diane Snow, provides coordination, leadership and support for the varied programs at UK designed to encourage, engage, and support the undergraduate research enterprise, thus enhancing the overall academic experience and future success of students. The office is the starting point for any undergraduate student desiring to include faculty-mentored research in their undergraduate experience.

About CUR
Located in Washington, DC, CUR is an organization affiliated with colleges, universities, and over 8,000 individuals who share a focus on providing undergraduate research opportunities for students and faculty. CUR believes that the best way to capture student interest and create enthusiasm for a discipline is through research in close collaboration with faculty members. UK is an institutional member of CUR. 

About LA and APS

The Leadership Alliance, a national academic consortium of 32 institutions with its executive office housed at Brown University, has supported over 2,300 undergraduates over the last 20 years through summer research experiences and ongoing mentoring.  Nearly 250 of these students have continued into graduate education and completed either their Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D., and many others have completed other graduate or professional degree programs.  The American Physiological Society has over 10,500 members committed to increasing diversity and mentoring the next generation of physiologists.  To do this, APS focuses on expanding the pipeline and ensuring undergraduate experiences in research via meetings and publications.