High School Program in Biomedical and Health Sciences

Sponsor: NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Location(s): United States


The demand for scientists outweighs the number of people interested in pursuing education or careers in science-related disciplines. While minority interest in science matches or exceeds that of whites, individuals of color and from disadvantaged backgrounds are underrepresented in higher education, and in particular science education. Providing high school adolescents with opportunities for exposure to scientific environments and encouragement from scientist mentors are key factors in developing a passion for and sustained pursuit of education in the sciences. Such opportunities are especially critical in promoting science interest among youth of color. The goal of the NIDDK Short-Term Education Program for Underrepresented Persons (STEP-UP) is to increase the number of youth who are committed to and well-positioned for careers in the sciences, especially in the NIDDK-related mission areas. Priority is given to recruiting and accepting students with interest in science from populations less represented in the biomedical and health sciences, including students of color, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and disabled students. Since 2007, the University of California, San Francisco, with Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher as the PI/Program coordinator, has been one of three coordinating sites for the high school STEP-UP program. We are applying to continue and expand our coordination of the high school STEP-UP program, and specifically to be one of the coordinating institutions to recruit students from the 48 contiguous United States. The specific aims of STEP-UP and our coordinating institution are to: 1) Recruit and retain 25 11th and 12th grade high school students less represented in the biomedical sciences, including individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, and individuals with disabilities. 2) Provide these students with a 10-12 week program that offers mentoring, opportunities for hands-on exposure to scientific research, and exposure to NIDDK-mission areas. 3) Help improve applications for successful college admission among youth who might otherwise have more limited educational choices. 4) Provide all mentors, including graduate and medical students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty, with training in mentoring adolescents through formal training and didactic mentoring experiences, thus resulting in a cadre of mentors well trained to encourage adolescents to enter the sciences. Providing opportunities for underrepresented groups of youth to enter the science pipeline will not only increase the number of youth from diverse backgrounds entering biomedical and health sciences, but will increase the number of diverse scientists and health care professions. STEP-UP emphasizes partnerships and focuses on academic preparation, thereby playing a large role in creating the conditions for success and becoming crucial for solving the complex problem of underrepresentation in the science and health professions.