NIH G-RISE Program

by Neal Reid

Auburn University has been awarded a prestigious $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, to broaden participation in the sciences for traditionally underrepresented students and diversify the pool of scientists earning doctoral degrees in the biomedical sciences.

The five-year training award — a Graduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement, or G-RISE, grant — is admin-istered by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a component of the NIH. Auburn’s program will be titled G-RISE at Auburn University and will begin with the selection of four scholars for the fall 2021 semester.

The G-RISE program is designed to develop a diverse pool of scientists earning a doctorate who have the skills to successfully transition into careers in the biomedical research workforce. Programmatic activities are focused on recruiting, admitting and supporting highly qualified students yearly from underrepresented groups through multiple mechanisms, with common threads of inclusive excellence and mentoring initiatives.

Recruiting efforts for G‐RISE at Auburn will welcome all applicants from traditionally underrepresented communities, with a focus on students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents from first-generation, low-income, African American, Latino/a and American Indian backgrounds. Funds from the grant will offset the

cost of stipends, tuition and fees and training expenses, including health insurance, for the appointed trainees in accordance with the approved NIH support levels.

Auburn’s grant proposal team consisted of Dr. Bruce Smith, Auburn Vet Med professor and director of the Auburn University Research Initiative for Cancer; Dr. Taffye Benson Clayton, vice president and associate provost for Auburn University Office of Inclusion and Diversity; and Dr. Melody Russell, professor of science education and assistant department head of the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Teaching. Smith serves as a faculty fellow for the Office of Inclusion and Diversity and will serve as lead principal investigator for the project, with Clayton and Russell serving as co-principal investigators. Smith, Clayton and Russell also are members of Auburn’s Presidential Task Force for Opportunity and Equity.

The program also will provide a variety of additional benefits, such as professional development in diversity, equity and inclusion for faculty mentors. Unique to the program is the mentoring model, which is implemented as a “mentoring constellation” and designed to enhance the graduate education experience, mentee/mentor relationships and prepare program participants for success in careers as biomedical scientists.

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