We recently analyzed the educational and career outcomes of scholars who participated in the NIGMS Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP). The goal of this program, which we started in 2000, is to prepare recent baccalaureate graduates from groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical sciences for entry into—and completion of—rigorous Ph.D. training programs. PREP is part of a larger effort at NIGMS to support the development of a highly skilled, creative and diverse biomedical research workforce.
PREP grants are awarded to research-intensive institutions. Each grant supports five to 10 scholars who spend 75 percent of their time as apprentice scientists pursuing a mentored discovery research project and the remainder engaged in academic and professional development activities. These include a program of study to enhance their academic record and workshops to improve their writing and presentation skills.
Our assessment of PREP outcomes is based on various educational and career metrics for PREP scholars supported from 2001 to 2014 through 41 institutional programs. For more details about the analysis, read the report [PDF].
Highlights of the analysis include:
- The largest group of PREP scholars, 42 percent, had baccalaureate degrees from large public, research-intensive institutions. About half of PREP scholars came from institutions with substantial numbers of underrepresented students.
- About 65 percent of PREP scholars matriculated into Ph.D. programs. An earlier study that we partially funded found that when they began the program, many PREP scholars did not have the academic and research credentials to place them in a competitive Ph.D. candidate pool. This study also found that along with the development of research skills, a key determinant of a PREP scholar’s future success was personal growth in identifying as a scientist.
- About 63 percent of the PREP scholars who entered a Ph.D. program before 2007 completed the degree. This represents about one-third of the total number of scholars, since the rest are still in graduate training. Reports from the Council of Graduate Schools indicate that the 10-year cumulative Ph.D. completion rates in the life sciences have been between 50 and 58 percent for students from underrepresented groups [PDF] and in the range of 59 to 69 percent for all students.
- The vast majority of PREP scholars who earned doctoral degrees did so at research-intensive universities and medical schools.
- Among the PREP scholars who completed the Ph.D. degree and post-degree training, 43 percent entered research careers and 36 percent entered science-related non-research careers.
Because the majority of PREP scholars have not yet completed their training, we plan to conduct future analyses to continue to assess the outcomes of these participants. Based on the current analysis, the PREP program appears to be achieving its intended goals.