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Broadening and Diversifying the Behavioral and Biomedical Research Workforce through Early Access to an Undergraduate Research Training Program.

There is a broad need to support the early educational trajectories of underrepresented students pursuing behavioral and biomedical research, particularly at large, comprehensive institutions. The Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) initiative at California State University Long Beach (CSULB) created an Associates Program designed to provide undergraduates with early exposure to research and foster a sense of belonging and interest in a research career during their sophomore year. Our Associates Program had high retention rates (> 90%) and served as a pathway to other research opportunities on campus, with over half of the students entering an intensive, upper-division research training program at CSULB upon completion. Analysis of evaluation data gathered at multiple points throughout the training program provided preliminary evidence that our early intervention program resulted in student trainees' growth in a number of key areas, including their sense of belong to the BUILD Program, interests in science and research, and understanding of what research entails and of the skills necessary for conducting research (e.g., scientific writing, oral presentation, data analysis). More importantly, comparisons of the students who continued on to an upper-division research training program to those who did not continue revealed that students who continued reported generally higher levels of science/research interests regardless of the time points of the survey, and a greater increase in their perception of gains made in some areas of research during the second half of the training program. Lastly, our results also showed that the Associates Program is similarly effective for trainees across behavioral and biomedical disciplines, underrepresented minority status, and gender. Based on these findings, we conclude that an early intervention program for undergraduate students results in development of research skills for students exploring research and serves as an effective pipeline for diverse students into more intensive upper-division training programs.

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