Greetings from North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham, North Carolina in the heart of the Research Triangle Park Region.
We are a four-year, comprehensive university that grants bachelor's, master's, and law degrees as one of 17 constituent institutions in The University of North Carolina system.
Founded in 1910 by pharmacist, theologian, and businessman, Dr. James E. Shepard, NCCU is also classified by the US Department of Education as one of the country's 105 historically-Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). HBCUs were defined by Congress in Title III of The Higher Education Act of 1965 as, "any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans." Among these, NCCU was the nation’s first state-supported liberal arts college for African-American students when North Carolina took fiscal responsibility for the school in 1925. This is a good primer on HBCUs in general.
While the current student body of 8,600 remains approximately 80% African-American, students from all backgrounds are welcome and seek out NCCU for its specialized programs in the sciences, the liberal arts, business, and law. As this blog develops, we will share with you some of the historical figures and current success stories that have originated at our institution.
What is RISE?
NIGMS has been operating the Minority Based Research Support (MBRS) program since 1972.
But you are a Scientopia reader and probably want to know what we have to do with this community. NCCU Eagles RISE is a project funded through a R25 mechanism by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). RISE, or Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement, is one component of the NIGMS Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) Program.
The goal of this program is to increase the number of NCCU students from underrepresented groups majoring in biology, chemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, and psychology that attain doctoral degrees and proceed to postdoctoral research training.
Why do we need such a program?
Students from underrepresented groups are just that: the percentage of students in the biomedical and behavioral sciences are far below those of the general population of the United States. Recent studies have revealed three major reasons for the poor entry rates and large attrition rates of minority students in doctoral programs: 1) less than desired student academic performance, 2) a failure to feel a part of the scientific community, and 3) a failure to feel capable of doing the work of a scientist (scientific self-efficacy). Dr. Martin Chemers, a social psychologist from UC-Santa Cruz whose research focuses on the success of underrepresented minorities in science and mathematics, reported that scientific self-efficacy and identity as a scientist were mediators of a commitment to a research career and recommended that programs should focus on these psychological factors.
The NCCU RISE program provides B.S. and M.S. students with research opportunities and one-on-one mentoring at NCCU and collaborating PhD-granting institutions together with the career development skills necessary for success in the tribe of science. One component of this program is the establishment of this blog as a mechanism for RISE Scholars to interact with members of the larger scientific community.
Who are we and why Scientopia?
This site is edited by NCCU RISE Principal Investigator, Dr. David Kroll (author of this post), and will feature the activities and writing of RISE undergraduates and master's students. Scientopia readers will recognize me as a long-time science blogger. I have been impressed by the power of this medium to increase the interaction of trainees with mentors - and each other - from across the US and around the world.
In fact, many of those who freely share their advice and experiences across the science blogosphere are right here at the Scientopia network. And Scientopia is also home to writers and scientists who have a strong track record of vocal commitment to diversity and opportunity in the STEM disciplines. I am grateful to the Board for being willing to facilitate this experiment at the network.
Other contributors will be NCCU RISE Program Coordinator, Kenneth Cutler, Director of NC Project SEED, and Chair of the NCCU RISE Internal Advisory Board, Dr. Faye Calhoun, former Deputy Director of the NIH's National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In future posts, we'll feature each of these program leaders.
And, in closing, here is our standard disclaimer to keep us in good stead with our affiliated institutions:
Opinions expressed here are solely those of faculty and student authors and do not in any way reflect the views of the North Carolina Central University, collaborating universities and institutes, NIGMS, or the National Institutes of Health.
Again, welcome - we look forward everyone learning about our RISE Scholars and interacting with the greater scientific community.