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Diversity in Research: Biomedical Research and Career Development Awards


STEM education is widely regarded as being crucial for inspiring students to learn, create, and solve complex problems. Worldwide, 74% of adults believe the world needs more people pursuing STEM related careers to benefit society’s future.1

Progress is being made to increase participation in STEM educational programs, especially for students of diverse backgrounds. Unfortunately, these efforts do not adequately translate into STEM careers for female and minority candidates, especially in healthcare and biomedical research.

The failure of employers to engage minority students in STEM careers begins in secondary education where 40% of Black and 37% of Latine students transfer out of STEM college majors.2 Equally concerning, nearly half of workers who receive STEM college training are working in non-STEM fields.3 STEM careers are especially lacking among female and minority workers. Today, Black, Latine, and Native Americans represent 32% of the US population, yet:

  • STEM workforce is mostly White, with Black and Latine workers representing just 16%3
  • Black, Latine, and Native American students represent less than 10% of doctorate degrees4

A recent study by LSU Health Services Center details White researchers are nearly twice as likely to receive federal grants as Black scientists.5 Mentoring minority postdoctoral and faculty researchers is the foundation of our program. It provides vital diversity and inclusion within scientific research and presents clear role models and obtainable career paths for students in STEM programs.

“If STEM programs in K-12 and secondary education represent the pipeline of academic talent, then postdoctoral and faculty programs must be the pump – drawing talented researchers into organizations where they can thrive and produce innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging problems.”

Ajay Israni, MD, MS
President, Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute

A Pathway for STEM in Science Careers

Investments in STEM curricula must ultimately be met by careers in science to fulfill the potential of these aspiring students. While public and private research grants are often limited for early career researchers, Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute’s (HHRI) Diversity in Research: Biomedical Research and Career Development Awards actively support underrepresented investigators early in their careers.

Investigators conduct research primarily in areas that have the greatest morbidity and mortality among minority populations including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease, and infectious diseases with emphasis on COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, Hepatitis A and B.

Postdoctoral and junior faculty researchers are under the direction and mentorship of HHRI senior faculty. The long-range goal is to help researchers make the transition to independence as Principal Investigators on their own projects. HHRI is uniquely qualified to advance the careers of women and minority researchers:

  • 77% of mentees successfully achieve independence in their research field
  • Medical research is conducted in partnership with HCMC, an acute care teaching hospital where people from underrepresented racial and ethnic communities comprise 60% of the patient population
  • Consistently ranks in the top 10% nationally of all institutions receiving research grants from the National Institutes of Health

Preference will be given to underrepresented individuals who have had no more than two years of prior full-time experience either in clinical or basic research. A three-year funding commitment is desired to support:

  • Research primarily in areas that have the greatest morbidity and mortality among minority populations
  • Laboratory facilities, conference allowance, grant and administrative support

Dr Olutayo Alese“African Americans are disproportionately affected by tobacco including higher death rates from tobacco-related causes and are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke. My research is increasing my knowledge of tobacco product exposure, wound healing physiology, and interpretation of genomic data for scientific publication.”

Olutayo Alese, PhD, MSc, MPH
Biomedical Research and Career Development Award recipient

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| 1. 3M State of Science Index Survey, Pandemic Pulse Survey, 2020 | 2. Catherine Riegle-CrumbBarbara KingYasmiyn Irizarry, Educational Researcher, Vol. 48 No. 3, 2019  |  3. Nikki Graff, Richard Fry, Cart Funk, Pew Research Center, 2018  |  4. National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, 2019  |  5. Dina Verdín, Allison Godwin, School of Engineering Education, Purdue University, 2015  |  6. Nicholas Gilpin, LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, Michael Taffe, University of California San Diego, 2021 |

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