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The University of California at Riverside (UCR) is one of the most diverse research universities in the nation and the only Tier 1 research campus in the UC system with a federal Hispanic-serving Institute designation. The HHMI project proposed here, Sustaining Academic Leadership for STEM Achievement (HHMI-SALSA), will address the unique challenges to STEM success faced by our students by providing lower division science students with early research immersion (the Dynamic Genome course, Bio20) and career exploration/mentoring, using an already successful first-year learning community (LC) program as the feeder pipeline. Based on demonstration of Bio20 as an effective strategy to involve large numbers of first year undergraduates in authentic research experiences, HHMI-SALSA proposes to significantly increase the number of sections offered (from 9 to 24 sections; 216 to 576 students) over 5 years by involving other UCR faculty whose research laboratories address current biological problems using a diversity of model organisms. The timing is ideal because a new NSF STEP grant (SL-CARE) has increased the capacity of the LCs which are the source of Bio20 students and generous support from a donor and UCR has financed the expansion of the Neil A. Campbell Science Learning Laboratory so it will be able to accommodate the new Bio20 sections.

HHMI-SALSA will engage the increasing number of Bio20 graduates in several activities, some of which utilize and expand existing UCR student success programs, and others that are new initiatives. First, HHMI-SALSA will partner with UCR's Medical Scholars Program to train 3rd and 4th year Bio20 graduates as Undergraduate Laboratory Assistants who will serve as near-peer mentors for all Bio20 sections. Second, HHMI-SALSA will partner with the successful CaTEACH/Science Mathematics Initiative to offer summer scientific teaching workshops that partner Bio20 graduates with local high school teachers. Third, HHMI-SALSA will significantly increase the number of Bio20 graduates engaged in research with UCR faculty during their first summer by offering stipends that will be matched by an equal number from the UCR Chancellor. Fourth, because many of our students are economically disadvantaged and have to work during the summer, HHMI-SALSA will develop a novel live-online Statistics for Life Sciences course to be taken by Bio20 graduates in the summer after their first year. This course will maximize interactions between the instructor and up to 20 students in real time using a sophisticated software platform. Finally, the project will facilitate twice-yearly career mentoring of second-year science students by UCR alumni, science professionals and peer upper division students. In these ways HHMI-SALSA will build a research engagement superstructure to retain STEM student through the lower division and then hand them off into upper division research, internship and career opportunities. HHMI-SALSA goals are improved alignment of students' career goals with their inherent talents, improved persistence in STEM majors, and a broader dispersion of UCR's ethnically diverse graduates into post-graduate schools and STEM professions.

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Susan Wessler, PhD
University of California-Riverside
Department of Botany and Plant Sciences
4107A Genomics Building
Riverside, CA 92521-4009


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