Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) has received a two-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its pilot project BEST BET: Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training – Beginning Enhancement Track.
The goal of BEST BET is to engage undergraduate students from populations generally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) earlier in their career exploration. Specifically, the project will target undergraduates who may not be aware of the multitude of career options available to them. These include opportunities in academia, the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, science communication, science policy and technology transfer/patent law.
BUSM was one of 27 institutions to receive this award through NSF’s Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) program, which is aimed at enhancing leadership in STEM discoveries and innovations through a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“The critical contributions of a diverse and inclusive community are essential to progress in all STEM fields. By promoting diversity in education, we hope to engage undergraduate students at a point in their professional development that could enable participation in a wide range of workforce opportunities so as to advance the progress of science and national health,” explained Linda Hyman, PhD, associate provost for the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. “The underlying premise is that career exploration focused on opportunities that go beyond physician training will enable engagement of this community of learners in the life science workforce beyond the pre-med track and keep them engaged in degree completion,” added Hyman, who is also principal investigator on the grant.
Multiple strategies will be used to attain the goals of BEST BET. The first will focus on “career exploration” and offers strategies to build career and skill development capacities. The second is an enhanced experience of BEST site visits (Boston University, Cornell University, University of Colorado-Denver, University of North Carolina and Wayne State University) whereby undergraduates will have the opportunity to envision life as a graduate student and beyond. Hyman believes these strategies will likely enhance persistence to complete the baccalaureate degree and move onto doctoral programs.
“Broadening participation in STEM is necessary for the United States to retain its position as the world’s preeminent source of scientific innovation,” said NSF Director France Córdova. “The National Science Foundation has a long history of working to address difficult challenges by creating the space for inventive solutions. NSF INCLUDES breaks new ground by providing a sustained commitment to collaborative change with the goal of bringing STEM opportunities to more people and communities across the country.”