Sept. 29, 2010
Jeremy Craig, 404-413-1357
ATLANTA — The National Institutes of Health has awarded a group of Atlanta universities, including Georgia State University, Emory University, Agnes Scott College and Spelman College, with a nearly $1.7 million grant to encourage and prepare students from diverse backgrounds to pursue neuroscience-related careers.
The five-year award, from the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, is part of the NIH Blueprint for Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences (BP-ENDURE).
The investigators who are involved in the project include lead investigator Kyle Frantz of GSU, as well as Chris Goode of Georgia State, William Hopkins of Agnes Scott, Karen Brakke of Spelman, and Elizabeth Buffalo from Emory.
The project will provide a two-year neuroscience research immersion program for undergraduate students from groups that have been underrepresented in neuroscience, with the goal of increasing entrance into neuroscience Ph.D. programs.
“Nationwide, we need a diversity of ideas,” Frantz said. “When you bring different people from different backgrounds together to solve problems in science, you bring diverse ideas to the bench or clinic. This is likely to improve research outcomes, from testing hypotheses in basic research to creating applications for a variety of subgroups in the human population.”
Overall, Frantz said 56 students from the partner colleges and universities will participate in the NIH-funded project. The effort targets students from different groups such as racial and ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, and educationally disadvantaged students.
These groups have less representation than others in science- and math-related doctoral programs and careers. Increased diversity in the workforce may bring new discoveries to light, Frantz said.
“When performing neuroscience research, we aim to answer questions about neurological disorders, mental health and drug addiction, and numerous problems of the brain and behavior,” she said. “Many different types of people are affected by neurological disorders, and can be aided by progress in neuroscience.”
The program for outstanding students from the four partner institutions will begin with participation in the summer undergraduate Behavioral Research Advancements in Neuroscience (BRAIN) program of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, a seven-institution neuroscience partnership in metro Atlanta headquartered at GSU.
After participating in BRAIN, an intensive 10-week neuroscience education and research program, students will transition into part-time neuroscience research assistantships at partnering institutions in Atlanta during their junior year.
The following summer, students will travel to one of the program’s 15 partner universities across the nation, and then will return to Atlanta to undergo a capstone program during their senior year before applying for graduate school.
The NIH-funded project additionally includes an intensive professional development workshop series.
The NIH grants nationwide total nearly $10.3 million over 5 years.
“By forming strong collaborations between institutions, these programs will maximize the impact of limited resources while fostering participation and diversity in neuroscience research,” said Alberto Rivera-Rentas, a neurobiologist who oversees this and other training programs at NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
“We expect that these partnerships will serve as models for future NIH initiatives designed to increase diversity in the biomedical workforce,” Rivera-Rentas added.
For more information about the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, visit www.cbn-atl.org.
For more about the NIH Blueprints for Neuroscience Research, visit http://neuroscienceblueprint.nih.gov.