Human Genome News, November 1991; 3(4)

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Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Program

Human Genome News Archive Edition

JHU Meets With Minority University Faculty

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) School of Medicine and three predominantly minority institutions in the greater Baltimore area met on August 23 at JHU. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss minority student and faculty participation in the Human Genome Project through research at JHU supported by the NIH National Center for Human Genome Research (NCHGR). (See list of meeting participants).

Randall Reed (JHU) described a newly established summer research program for minority students. The number of U.S. students applying to graduate school is dwindling, according to Reed, and minority students should be aggressively recruited; a summer research experience is one way to stimulate interest. At the beginning of 1991, Reed polled the JHU faculty about the possible program, in which faculty members might use their research funds to support students; of the 50 faculty members polled, 49 favored such a project. Five students took part in the 1991 program, and JHU plans to enlarge it next year.

Cecil Payton (Morgan State University) stated that his students participated in similar activities at other institutions. He said a JHU program would be very beneficial because of proximity to the students' home institutions and the possibility that research projects could be continued during the school year. At present, only students participating in Minority Access to Research Careers programs have opportunities to conduct research in laboratories outside their home universities.

Neba Ngwa-Suh (Bowie State University) expressed concern that students, especially freshmen or sophomores, might not be properly prepared for research. Participants agreed that students without research experience should not be excluded from the program, because its main purpose is to introduce them to an intense research environment. JHU faculty members indicated that every effort would be made to match each student's experience with the appropriate research situation; motivation was seen as more important than grades. The group also believed that the application process should be simple, consisting of a transcript, two letters of recommendation, and a one-page questionnaire to assess the student's motivation.

Coordinators at each institution will act as liaisons with JHU faculty and be responsible for identifying promising students. Recruitment for the JHU 1992 summer program began this fall, and Roger Reeves (JHU) developed a recruitment package containing information about faculty and various research projects at JHU.

Speaking about program financing and coordination, Bettie Graham (NCHGR) described the minority supplement available to all NIH grantees. She stated that each NIH component has its own policy and that grantees seeking a minority supplement should contact their respective NIH program directors.

Graham emphasized that the minority supplement should not be used instead of the National Research Service Award (NRSA) to support minority graduate students. Graham stated that NCHGR would be receptive to a request for a minority-supplement in addition to the NRSA if the student slots on this grant are already filled with an adequate number of minorities and if the investigator wishes to recruit additional minority students.

JHU representatives suggested many possible opportunities for minority-institution faculty, including sabbatical leaves. Short-term research could be full-time in summer and extend to part-time during the academic year. Minority-institution representatives were very enthusiastic about updating faculty research expertise. Graham stated that the minority supplement and the NRSA senior fellowship program could support these activities.

Payton reported on other activities at his institution, such as providing public school students and teachers with greater science exposure. JHU faculty encouraged this effort and expressed interest in giving seminars as part of the program.

The meeting stimulated institutions in the greater Baltimore area to discuss how students and faculty from predominantly minority institutions could participate in research at JHU. It also provided the opportunity for JHU faculty to use input from minority scientists to expand their summer program for minority students. An additional benefit was that JHU faculty agreed to participate in activities sponsored by minority institutions.

Positive interactions among participants emphasized the importance of face-to-face meetings. Written information from the federal government is overwhelming to the scientific community; a personal visit allows for an immediate exchange of information, ideas, and opinions.

Submitted by Bettie J. Graham, Chief
Research Grants Branch

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Human Genome Project 1990–2003

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international 13-year effort, 1990 to 2003. Primary goals were to discover the complete set of human genes and make them accessible for further biological study, and determine the complete sequence of DNA bases in the human genome. See Timeline for more HGP history.

Human Genome News

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