We are innovating qualitative methods to understand the experiences of biomedical trainees and their progression into research careers.


National Longitudinal Study of Career Decision-Making of Young Biomedical Scientists

One of the most complex, intractable problems in efforts to diversify the sciences is the exceedingly slow rates of increasing representation of minoritized faculty.  Faculty diversity is critical, as faculty are the role models and mentors who shape the future science ranks. More must be learned about the true nature of the problem before new strategies can be designed. In 2004, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) began an initiative to stimulate and support empirical research on interventions designed to promote interest and success of students in research careers, particularly those from traditionally underrepresented groups. The goal was to move interventions beyond their longstanding historical underpinnings of intuitive design (based on what successful bench scientists thought should work) to designs based on evidence-based approaches and established social science principles. This longitudinal study has followed a cohort of nearly 300  students from entry and progression through biomedical PhD training. Using annual, in-depth interviews, we can develop a more nuanced understanding of how these biomedical trainees make decisions about their potential careers. With our sampling and study recruitment methods, we sought to enable comparisons across gender and ethnic/racial groups, as well as the intersection between these and other identities. Our analytical framework integrates both grounded theory and established social science theories.

 The Academy for Future Science Faculty

Translating Theory to Practice to Diversify the Biomedical Research Community - "The Academy for Future Science Faculty"

Through our empirical research and use of multiple social science theories to understand career decisions of young scientists, we concluded that there is a powerful, socially constructed sequence of events, programmed into research training that contributes to low rates of professional progression of minoritized individuals. Many of those events and social interactions are highly influenced by the idiosyncratic nature of mentor-based training models employed during research training. Starting from a unique NIH Director’s Pathfinder Award to Diversify the Science Workforce, we have experimented with a consciously constructed and theoretically based 'group coaching' model to augment what students encounter through classical mentoring practices in biomedical PhD training. This study was the first-ever, randomized controlled trial of an alternative approach to development of young scientists, with a primary goal being to increase the progression of underrepresented minorities and women toward academic careers.

 Culturally Aware Mentoring

Impact of Culturally Aware Mentoring Interventions on Research Mentors and Graduate Training Programs

There is a critical need for culturally aware mentoring (CAM) to guide faculty mentors to understand the sources and impact of bias on diverse graduate trainees to improve the training environment for students from underrepresented groups. As part of the National Research Mentoring Network funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a diverse, transdisciplinary team including two members of our group, created a novel CAM intervention to increase mentors' skills for interacting with mentees from different racial, ethnic and social backgrounds than the mentor. Initial studies of the impacts of CAM on faculty and STEM program leaders demonstrated powerful and lasting positive Our group is integrally involved with an NIH-funded randomized controlled trial comparing two versions of CAM.

 Grant Writing Coaching Groups to Foster Development of Skills for Successful NIH Proposals

Writing effective research proposals is one of the most complex skills an academic scientist must master. It requires both skills or research design and writing in a very stylized way reviewers expect to see.  Ideally, mentors teach these skills to rising scientists, but too often they don’t. This is especially true for young scientists from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. To address this critical need, a group of successful scientists have created a novel grant writing coaching group process through the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN).  Our group has been integrally involved with pioneer this novel approach as well as its implementation through NRMN.  Currently, we are Co-Investigators on a U01 award to the University of Utah to conduct a randomized trial of four variations of the coached writing groups.  Our group has been instrumental in the design and conduct of the study, as well as collection of qualitative interview data to understand how and why the coaching group process is successful for some and not for others.

 First-Generation College Student Study

SCRDG member Ida Salusky, MPH, PhD, is the co-PI on the First-Generation College Student Study; a five-year, mixed-method, longitudinal research project examining the support systems and experiences that promote retention and graduation of students for whom no primary caregiver completed a four-year college degree. First-Generation College Students (FGCS) experience high rates of attrition compared to continuing generation college students and FGCS status often co-occurs with other identities historically excluded and marginalized within higher education settings (e.g., BIPOC, low-income, immigrant). By following 365 participants across three institution types (historically black college and university or HBCU, private commuter university and highly selective public college), the First-Generation College Student research team aims to identify barriers to retention and graduation as well as system level factors (e.g., campus climate) that effectively support FGCS, resulting in degree completion and graduation.