Everything You Wanted to Know About VCU's Initiative to Maximize Student Development

As a biomedical research student, I have struggled to find quality experience in my specific field of interest. Currently, my institution provides many pre-professional tracks that are well-known, but minimally competitive. These tracks include but are not limited to pre-dentistry, pre-medicine and pre-nursing. Unfortunately for myself, there is no official pre-Ph.D track that is well-known. Unlike the established track, there is no guidance provided by institution faculty to assist students in achieving their research goals.

However, I was introduced to the Initiative to Maximize Student Development (IMSD) research training program by an academic advisors in my department. The program is not as popular as other tracks, but is much more competitive at my institution. Institutions across the country receive IMSD grants from the National Institutes of Health with the objective of propelling students from underrepresented backgrounds into biomedical research programs. The program is offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

At the undergraduate level, students are given the tools to obtain a research mentor with whom they share research interests. Mentors are experts in their fields and have completed Ph.D programs. They are often professors at graduate institutions that also conduct their own research projects in a laboratory setting.

Projects are supplemented by courses such as presenting research, which develops the students’ abilities to appropriately, accurately and concisely convey research topics and finding. The thesis course is a guided research course that makes the process more structured for students just starting their journey through the field. The program offers GRE preparatory courses in addition to a paid summer internship that continues throughout the academic year. Students also receive assistance in preparing graduate level applications as well as the opportunities to attend national research conferences.

I believe the IMSD mentors that assist students in achieving their goals as a part of the program genuinely want students to succeed. After speaking with one of the mentors at VCU, I could feel that passion she felt for her students and the excitement she felt after one of her students received an award at conference.

VCU’s undergraduate IMSD research program sends out applications every year as they are eager meet and assist aspiring scientists. For more information on VCU's IMSD program, visit this website.

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