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NICHD Celebrates Accomplishments of Minority Scientists

By Christina Stile

NICHD recently recognized the recipients of its Supplement Program for Underrepresented Minorities and their accomplishments at a 2-day conference. The gathering highlighted research opportunities for minority scientists, both under the guidance of established principal investigators and as principal investigators themselves. The conference also included a poster session featuring research projects supported by this initiative.

The NICHD program was introduced in April 1997 to increase the number of underrepresented minority scientists in biomedical and biobehavioral research. To date, NICHD has made nearly 250 Supplement Program awards, 25 of them in 1999. The program supports investigators who sponsor a minority individual to participate in an ongoing research project, be that person a high school student, undergraduate student, graduate research assistant, postdoctoral candidate, or staff or faculty member. Principal investigators mentor minority researchers for 3 months to 2 years, encouraging them to pursue their own careers in biomedical research. To qualify for the award, the minority individual must illustrate that his or her experience is an integral part of the ongoing research as outlined in the parent grant. The experience must also require interaction with individuals on the parent grant and an intellectual contribution to the progress of the project.

Award levels are tailored to the minority applicant's education level and range from a one-time, $3,000 stipend for a researcher at the high school level, to $50,000 salary expenses for a faculty or staff member. Principal investigators receive these funds as administrative supplements to their parent grants in return for their mentoring efforts. Some applicants also qualify for awards to cover travel and supply costs. In this way, the NICHD Supplement Program for Underrepresented Minorities supports products and projects at some of the best labs in the country.

"These NICHD supplements are unique," said institute deputy director Dr. Yvonne Maddox. "This program has not only fostered numerous careers in research, but it has also established a foundation to launch the beginning investigator into the research arena."

Maddox recognized the efforts of the late Dr. Gordon Guroff in establishing the program. Guroff, the deputy scientific director of NICHD, was killed in an automobile accident on July 9; Maddox dedicated the conference to his memory.

Keynote speaker Dr. J. Tyson Tildon suggested that researchers include mentoring as a "major methodology" in their practices.

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