July 29-31, 2018, Bethesda, MD
Written by Ann Smith
The Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons (STEP-UP) program held its annual STEP-UP Undergraduate Research Symposium, July 29-31, 2018, in Bethesda, Maryland. Fifty-seven undergraduate students participated in summer research experiences that culminated with the symposium, which took place on the NIH Campus.
The STEP-UP Program provides hands-on summer research experience for underrepresented minority undergraduate students interested in exploring research careers. It is a federally funded program managed and supported by the Office of Minority Health Research Coordination (OMHRC) in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The undergraduate component of the STEP-UP Program is coordinated by three coordinating centers: Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (led by Emil Bogenmann, PhD, EdD, and Meghan Currier Banks, MEd), Pennsylvania State University/University of Texas Health Sciences Center – San Antonio (led by W. Brian Reeves, MD, and Gail L. Matters, PhD), and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (led by NRMN personnel Mona N. Fouad, MD, MPH, and Ann S. Smith, MPH; and W. Timothy Garvey, MD).
The STEP-UP Research Symposium kicked-off with a welcome and introductions, dinner buffet, and networking at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bethesda. It continued the next morning in the NIH Hatfield Clinical Research Center (Building 10), where the students received a warm welcome from NIDDK Program Director, Robert Rivers, PhD, and an inspiring talk from the Director of the NIDDK, Griffin P. Rodgers, MD, MACP.
Throughout the next two days, the students each presented both an oral presentation, and a poster presentation, about the research projects they worked on over the summer. The students, from institutions across the U.S., including Puerto Rico and the Federated States of Micronesia, worked with mentors at universities from New York to Hawaii. Research topics ranged from Cell Biology and Diabetes, to Neuroscience, Nutrition, Social Determinants of Health, and Stem Cell Research.
In addition, the students participated in Career Roundtable Discussions and Career Development Workshops, and heard reflections from a past STEP-UP participant who is now a medical student at Duke University. The conference closed with a banquet at the hotel, and encouraging remarks by guest speaker, Christopher P. Austin, MD, Director of the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).
The overall goal of STEP-UP is to build and sustain a biomedical, behavioral, clinical and social science research pipeline focused on NIDDK’s core mission areas of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases and nutrition; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. This approach aligns with the NRMN goal to increase diversity in the biomedical and NIH-funded research workforce, by unlocking scientific potential through mentorship.