Impact of the INBRE summer student mentored research program on undergraduate students in Arkansas
by McSweeney, J. C.; Hudson, T. J.; Prince, L.; Benes, H.; Tackett, A. J.; Robinson, C. M.; Koeppe, R.; Cornett, L. E.
The Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program, housed within the National Institute for General Medical Sciences, administers the Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) as a strategic mission to broaden the geographic distribution of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding within the United States. Undergraduate summer student mentored research programs (SSMRP) are a common feature of INBRE programs and are designed to increase undergraduate student interest in research careers in the biomedical sciences. Little information is available about student perspectives on how these programs impact their choices relative to education and careers. Therefore, we conducted qualitative interviews with 20 participants from the Arkansas INBRE SSMRP in the years 2002-2012. Each telephone interview lasted 30-45 min. An interview guide with a broad "grand tour" question was used to elicit student perspectives on SSMRP participation. Interviews were digitally recorded, then transcribed verbatim, and the transcript checked for accuracy. Content analysis and constant comparison were used to identify nine themes that were grouped into three temporal categories: before, during, and after the SSMRP experience. Students viewed the experience as positive and felt it impacted their career choices. They emphasized the value of mentoring in the program, and some reported maintaining a relationship with the mentor after the summer experience ended. Students also valued learning new laboratory and presentation skills and felt their research experience was enhanced by meeting students and scientists with a wide range of career interests. These data suggest that the Arkansas INBRE and the NIH IDeA program are successfully meeting the goal of increasing interest in research among undergraduates.