The primary goals of The Scripps Research Institute Alcohol Research Center (TSRI-ARC) Dissemination Core are to offer access to state-of-the-art knowledge about alcohol use disorder to higher risk young people while also tackling health disparities by increasing representation of minorities in biomedical science. We will address the NIH mandate to train and develop a diverse scientific workforce by offering an internship program that will not only address health disparity research, especially that relevant to alcohol use disorder, but will also provide students with agency, community, and identity in science. We will educate our interns on the neuroscience of alcohol use, abuse, and dependence using TSRI-ARC laboratory examples. The goal is to do our part to increase diversity in alcohol research (and scientific/biomedical careers in general), thus increasing the likelihood that research outcomes will benefit individuals from underserved or health disparity populations and expand public trust in research. This goal dovetails nicely with our T32 grant, “Neuropsychopharmacology: Multidisciplinary Training,” which has a strong diversity, equity, and inclusion focus. We will engage TSRI-ARC and T32 trainees to be teachers, mentors, creators, and communicators and to interrogate prejudice and diversity in science. We hope we have created a proposal that will have impact while being both exciting and helpful to create a sense of community in our TSRI-ARC.
Specific Aim 1
To create a virtual internship program targeted toward high school students from health disparity populations and to expand our in-person internship opportunities. Our internship approach will be three-tiered: 1) standard in-person internships (continuing our program focus on increasing underrepresented minority [URM] involvement), 2) virtual internships (new), and 3) virtual internships leading to in-person opportunities to extend and expand upon successful experiences. While we primarily focus on describing the tier 2 experience in our proposal because it is new, it is very important to note that some of the innovative content that we are designing for the virtual internship program will be used for ALL interns. Discussions and workshops focused on ethics in research, identity, and belonging in science and career development will be available (and very highly recommended) to in-person interns. We will directly contact high schools with large health disparity populations for this program and will also rely on our growing social media presence to attract additional candidates.
Specific Aim 2
Increase postdoctoral trainee involvement in outreach and better utilize social media to highlight both our scientific accomplishments and outreach efforts. The goal of this aim is to formalize the involvement of our TSRI-ARC and T32 postdoctoral trainees in outreach by encouraging them to lecture and mentor within the virtual internship program, give lectures to high school and undergraduate students, present in university community center settings, and contribute to our social media. For example, we plan on instituting a “Takeover Tuesday” concept that has been springing up at universities to provide a platform for trainees to promote diversity initiatives or tell first-person stories related to diversity in science.
Specific Aim 3
To create an ARC and T32 trainee and intern diversity-related club and annual poster session.
One goal of this aim is to foster open discussions of diversity in science and to use this effort to recruit URM interns. An ARC Diversity group will be created, and members will take turns posting ARC scientific highlights on our Instagram feed. Another goal is to bring the interns and trainees together to create a community. Lastly, having an end-of-summer poster session held in conjunction with the Annual ARC Scientific Meeting, with high school and undergraduate interns and graduate/postdoctoral trainees, with a virtual component (as needed), will allow the students to learn about each other’s work, practice presenting science, and interact with each other and make mentee/mentor connections.
Significance and value to the TSRI-ARC
Health disparities are extremely problematic and addressing them represents a key goal of NIAAA. This Core has the objective of targeting URM in STEM research both for education regarding health disparities as well as to increase their representation in biomedical science and medicine. This will be a valuable resource for TSRI-ARC labs as it will help recruit URMs into our labs. It has been shown that diversity enhances problem solving and innovation as well as increasing publication impact and citations.