UPDATE: The MARC U-Star report includes an addendum on the demographics of the program’s alumni.
We recently analyzed the educational outcomes of trainees who participated in the NIGMS MARC U-STAR program. The goal of the program is to enhance the pool of students from underrepresented groups earning baccalaureate and Ph.D. degrees in biomedical research fields. MARC U-STAR is part of a larger effort at NIGMS to support the development of a highly skilled, creative and diverse biomedical research workforce [PDF]. This study was designed to identify the educational outcomes of over 9,000 MARC U-STAR alumni appointed at 114 institutions between 1986 and 2013.
MARC U-STAR grants are awarded to undergraduate institutions. Each grant supports a continuous 2-year program for the junior and senior (or final two) years of college that provides the trainees with academic enhancement, research training and professional skills development. In addition to these on-campus enhancements, MARC U-STAR institutions are expected to provide each trainee with a summer research experience at a research-intensive institution. The recently released Funding Opportunity Announcement describes the expectation that a majority of MARC U-STAR alumni nationwide will matriculate in a research doctorate program.
Highlights of the analysis include:
- Many contemporary MARC U-STAR programs are at institutions that enroll substantial numbers of individuals from underrepresented groups. Among MARC U-STAR institutions, about one-third were described as Historically Black Colleges and Universities/Primarily Black Institutions, and one-third were described as Hispanic-Serving Institutions. In terms of research strength, programs were split almost equally into research universities, master’s universities and baccalaureate institutions.
- Among MARC U-STAR alumni appointed between 2001 and 2005, 70 percent are enrolled in or have completed a graduate degree. Twenty-nine percent earned a Ph.D. or M.D.-Ph.D., 12 percent earned an M.D. or D.O., 5 percent earned a doctorate in another professional/clinical field, and 14 percent earned a master’s degree. This percentage of students obtaining a Ph.D. is about twice that for undergraduates supported by the NIGMS Diversity Supplement Program [PDF].
- While reporting varied, about 59 percent of recent MARC U-STAR alumni overall matriculated in Ph.D. programs, and of those, two-thirds completed the degree. 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. MARC U-STAR trainees who earned doctoral degrees did so at research-intensive universities and medical schools, as do students nationwide.
For more details about the analysis, read the report.
Based on the current analysis, the MARC U-STAR program appears to be achieving its intended goals to enhance the pool of underrepresented students earning baccalaureate and Ph.D. degrees in biomedical research fields.