Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) has been rewarded in an unprecedented way for its history of helping underrepresented students reach their science dreams. The university has received its largest award ever — $22.7 million over five years — to establish an innovative research program that will help prepare underrepresented students for doctoral programs in the sciences.
The grant comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The initiative, Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD), will allow CSULB to establish the most comprehensive and transformative research training program in its history.
“This award has the potential to become a national model and secure Cal State Long Beach’s place as a biomedical and behavioral research training ground,” said CSULB President Jane Close Conoley. “We are very excited and proud to have been chosen for this potentially transformative award. The opportunities it will bring about for our faculty and students are truly unprecedented for this university.”
Through the BUILD program, underrepresented undergraduate students will receive mentoring and research training at CSULB and two research partner institutions — University of California, Irvine (UCI) and University of Southern California (USC) — to help them succeed in doctoral programs in the biomedical and behavioral sciences.
When the program is at capacity in year five, it will be able to support more than 200 students each year. The university will also establish a research curriculum that increases the number and the diversity of undergraduates going on to doctoral programs. Four CSULB colleges are included in the proposal – Liberal Arts, Health and Human Services, Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Engineering. There will be 10 BUILD awardees selected nationally.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for our students and our faculty. As the largest award in the university’s history, it provides funding for stipends or hourly pay for students engaged in the training programs and research and allows us to renovate shared research spaces on campus and buy research instruments. In addition, our faculty will be able to create new partnerships at Research I Universities, enhancing their research competitiveness,” said Laura Kingsford, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at CSULB.
The first year of this grant is a ramp-up year where CSULB will be hiring staff, establishing the training programs and curriculum and developing partnerships. The goal is that by summer 2015, CSULB will be ready to start student training. This will include working with students’ families to help them understand more about career options. The students selected for the program will get paid and, as a result, faculty will benefit from having students who have time to work in their labs. CSULB faculty will help these students get into research doctoral programs.
In an effort to help students think about pursuing doctoral degrees before they even arrive at CSULB, the university is partnering with Long Beach Unified School District and Long Beach City College as well as with Cerritos College and Golden West College.
USC’s role will focus on public health, while UCI will focus on science, behavioral sciences and engineering. In addition, CSULB has a research partner at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Long Beach where there are staff with joint faculty appointments with UCI.
Students in their junior or senior year will be required to do summer research at Research I Universities as defined by the Carnegie Foundation, but it doesn’t have to be at UCI or USC. There will be two student tracks — one for students who are likely to graduate in four years and one for students who may need more support or for transfers. Finally, if students aren’t accepted in a doctoral program right away, CSULB can continue to enroll them for 10 months as a post-baccalaureate student.
NIH has defined a need to get more underrepresented individuals into research careers in biomedical sciences – anticipating that they will be very interested in doing research in areas that address health disparities and are funded by the NIH. BUILD also provides many resources for faculty development to enhance research competitiveness and success in getting major funding in the biomedical sciences.
The BUILD initiative’s primary purpose is to provide opportunities and resources for eligible institutions to implement transformative, broad-based approaches to the training of students to undertake biomedical research in matters relating to the cause, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease. BUILD awards will emphasize research opportunities for students because exposure to meaningful research experiences is associated with improved academic performance and sustained interest in biomedical research careers.