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National Institutes of Health

Science Update
October 31, 2006

Colloquium to Mark 25 Years of Improving Access to Mental Health Research Careers

When mostly minority college students being groomed for careers in mental health-related research convene in Washington D.C. early next month, a program to promote diversity in the scientific workforce will mark a quarter century of progress. The Career Opportunities In Research (COR) program, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), is one of only two such grant programs by NIH Institutes that support undergraduate education. The students will share their latest research findings and gain inspiration from COR graduates who are now working scientists at the 25th annual COR Education and Training Colloquium to be held November 1-5, 2006 at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel.

The meeting will bring together about 160 COR scholars - junior and senior honors students from 19 colleges and universities with predominantly racial and ethnic minority students — their faculty mentors, role model alumni, recruiters from graduate schools and NIMH program staff. Students will showcase their research projects in poster and oral presentations, and interact with COR alumni and leaders in the field. This year, for the first time, the event will also include presentations from — and be attended by — classmates who are not in the formal NIMH-funded program, and it will be open to the public.

Among highlights will be talks by alumni who have become independent investigators:

To increase representation of racial and ethnic minorities, the NIMH COR Program provides support for honors juniors and seniors interested in pursuing careers in the mental health related sciences. Applicants are evaluated on their individual merits by the host institution, mostly historically Black and Hispanic-serving colleges and universities. COR trainees must complete approximately 20 semester hours beyond the requirement for the bachelor's degree. Working in the research laboratory of their mentor, they assist with experiments and prepare and present abstracts, poster sessions, and scientific talks. Additionally, they are expected to attend national scientific meetings, submit scientific papers for publication, and participate in a summer research project at a university other than their parent institution. These supplemental experiences prepare the students for success in gaining admission to -- and completing -- doctoral graduate programs. After receiving their bachelors degrees, 75-80 percent of COR trainees go directly to graduate school.