Program propels students to research careers in health, medicine
EAST LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan State University program designed to overcome the racial and socioeconomic disparities seen among health researchers has spawned diverse projects ranging from managing chronic heart disease to preventing memory loss among diabetics.
More importantly, in its first year the Research Program to Increase Diversity in Health Researchers, known as REPID, helped 17 MSU students from traditionally underrepresented groups achieve their medical research goals.
As a result, at least 11 of the students are taking jobs in the health research field or pursuing further medical education. Others are continuing their undergraduate studies. Applications for the next year of the program are now being accepted; the deadline is Oct. 15. Students receive a stipend as well as financial assistance to attend a biomedical conference.
The REPID program began in September 2011 with a $1.1 million federal grant awarded to Elahe Crockett, associate professor in the Department of Medicine at MSU's College of Human Medicine.
The National Institutes of Health funding allowed Crockett and program coordinator Lindsay Gluf to create a short-term research education program aimed at underrepresented, minority and disadvantaged students at MSU.
“To have so many students without research background be offered research positions is amazing,” Crockett said. “The program broke down cultural barriers and gave students the opportunity to do hands-on, intensive work in top research labs across campus.”
She said the first year of the five-year program was successful: Each of the 17 students took part in a spring term biomedical research course, followed by a summer hands-on research experience. As part of the course, students learned myriad research techniques and practices, from preparing slides for microscopes to how to properly record data to learning about responsible research conduct.
During the summer experience, students worked 40 hours a week with a designated mentor in a research lab on campus. That resulted in a research presentation at the MSU summer undergraduate Research and Arts Forum, where students showcased their research projects on various topics.
"One of the strengths of the program is the direct interaction with mentors and students," Crockett said. “These students are taking part in world-class research.”
Hahyung Y. Kim, a senior studying genomics, molecular genetics and microbiology, said the program not only opened her eyes to new lines of research but also gave her confidence as she applies to graduate school.
“I am much better trained as a scientist now,” said Kim, who added the most important thing she learned was from her mentor was proper techniques in preparing lab specimens. “The support and the network that the REPID program has provided have given me a lot more security in my career choice.”
Alexis Therman, a senior studying anthropology, hopes to become a physician and said the program created a great deal of momentum for her toward pursing a health-related career.
“We were exposed to fields and research techniques that were very helpful and gave a well-rounded picture of what will be expected of us if we pursue research careers,” said Therman, who worked with diabetic and heart disease patients on suggested diets and exercise plans.
Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.