Science Study Team Receives Adolphus Toliver Award for Outstanding Research

UCSF School of Nursing is proud to announce that Mica Estrada, PhD, and the Science Study research team received the Adolphus Toliver Award for Outstanding Research. On February 28, the Science Study research team, including Drs. Wesley Schultz (PI), Mica Estrada (Co-PI), Anna Woodcock, and Paul Hernandez, were honored with the Toliver Award at the Understanding Interventions that Broaden Participation in Science Careers Conference. The Science Study is a 10 year study of the impact of participating in undergraduate NIH sponsored research training programs on long term persistence in biomedical fields for historically underrepresented students and has been funded by NIGMS at NIH. The study includes a panel of 1400 students who either participated in these NIH programs or were part of a matched propensity score set of students who have been tracked prospectively across these 10 years.

Pictured: Antony DePasse (co-chair of the Understanding Interventions conference, Wesley Schultz (CSU San Marcos), Mica Estrada (UCSF), Paul Hernandez (West Virginia University)

To read more regarding the conference and topics covered, please refer to the agenda here. The following excerpt, from the conference agenda, provides more detail regarding the award-winning Undergraduate research experiences: A longitudinal assessment (S).

Pictured (Left - Right): Antony DePasse (co-chair of the Understanding Interventions conference), Wesley Schultz (CSU San Marcos), Mica Estrada (UCSF), Paul Hernandez (West Virginia University)


Undergraduate research experiences: A longitudinal assessment (S)
Paul R. Hernandez, Anna Woodcock, Mica Estrada, P. Wesley Schultz-West Virginia University

Increasing the number of Americans with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is critical to maintaining U.S. global competitiveness (Olson & Riordan, 2012). Achieving this increase will involve broadening participation in STEM by improving the retention of undergraduate students, particularly women and underrepresented minorities (URMs) in academic STEM disciplines (Olson & Riordan, 2012). Participation in undergraduate research experiences (UREs) are almost universally accepted as an effective educational tool for increasing interest in STEM careers, but to date the efficacy of this approach has not been well-established empirically (Linn, Palmer, Baranger, Gerard, & Stone, 2015).

Data from surveys and interviews indicate that students feel that their UREs improve their scientific knowledge and ability (Bauer & Bennett, 2003), increase their interest in STEM careers and their expectations of earning a Ph.D. (Russell, Hancock, & McCullough, 2007), and sustain their interest in postgraduate education (Eagan et al., 2013; Lopatto, 2004). However, reviews of the URE literature have raised concerns about serious methodological shortcomings. Much of this research has relied on self-reports, interviews, and retrospective accounts of satisfaction, rather than empirically validated gains in knowledge, understanding, or longitudinal persistence (Linn et al., 2015). In addition, the limited longitudinal evidence assessing the effect of UREs on persistence is threatened by reliance on self-reported intentions to persist rather than actual behavior. Often these longitudinal studies fail to differentiate between types or level of involvement in UREs (e.g., course based research, extra-curricular research, leading a project, supporting a project), fail to control for the duration of the UREs, or are unable to disentangle direction of causality (i.e., does the URE cause persistence or do persistence intentions cause participation in the UREs) (Linn et al., 2015).

The present study begins to address gaps in the literature through a longitudinal examination of the types, level of involvement in, and duration of UREs on URMs longitudinal persistence in STEM. This examines UREs in the context of a well-established intervention and training program – the NIH’s Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program. Previous research has shown that the RISE program is effective at retaining underrepresented minorities interest and persistence in STEM careers (Schultz et al., 2011; Woodcock, Hernandez, & Schultz, 2015); however, this work did not distinguish between types of UREs and insufficient time had passed to connect UREs to STEM persistence post-graduation. We hypothesize that undergraduate research experiences are one of the key mechanisms for the success of RISE program. We report analyses of a national sample comparing predominantly African American and Latino(a) RISE students with propensity-score matched (PSM) control group of students over an eight-year period. Results indicate that the RISE students had higher rate of engagement in undergraduate research experiences, compared to PSM control group students. RISE students engaged in a wider variety and longer duration of research experiences, taking on different roles (lead, support, etc.).

Finally, research experiences, in particular, conducting research as part of a team, mediated the effect of RISE membership on STEM career choice/persistence in STEM.