102_DiscoveryPREPSimilar to many other professional arenas, the field of scientific research lacks a varied and diverse workforce. According to the National Science Foundation, underrepresented minorities were awarded 11% of research doctorates despite making up 27% of the population and about 30% of the labor force. The Ohio State University College of Medicine is focused on increasing these numbers because diversity drives innovation by bringing new ideas and perspectives to the research field.

Discovery Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) is a pipeline program designed to bridge the gap between an undergraduate education and a PhD program. This is a National Institutes of Health funded program that provides an intense, paid research experience in outstanding research facilities across the country. This one-year program also delivers comprehensive professional development experiences and workshops that are designed to prepare individuals for admission into a biomedical sciences PhD program.

Discovery PREP trainees spend 75% of their time in the laboratory with an experienced Ohio State research mentor. At the bench, trainees gain invaluable hands-on research experience, completing a research project and working toward the presentation and publication of their research findings. The remaining 25% of their time is devoted to academic and professional development. In order to prepare participants to enter a biomedical PhD graduate program, the college offers access to GRE test preparation services and tutoring opportunities, exposes them to graduate level course work that supplements and reinforces information learned in lab and provides one-on-one career counseling and graduate school application preparation.

Additionally, the curriculum exposes participants to many aspects of the work and research conducted by physician-scientists, a role that is in great demand to further biomedical science.

“When I joined the lab my sophomore year, I had planned to pursue a career in medicine,” says Deborah Olagbenro, a former Discovery PREP trainee and Neuroscience student. “My experiences in Dr. Barrientos’ lab helped me discover that my true passion lies in research.”

Ohio State distinguishes itself in this research program by providing trainees with a competitive salary for 12 months of paid research experience as well as health care and other benefits. Trainees also gain research mentoring from renowned leaders in their chosen field and have access to modern facilities.

“The Discovery PREP Program at The Ohio State University is impacting the way science looks in the future,” says Candice Askwith, PhD, associate professor and vice chair of research in the Department of Neuroscience. “We are dedicated to ensuring all people, no matter their background, have access to resources that will change lives.”

According to Peter Mohler, PhD, vice president of Research for The Ohio State University and chief scientific officer for the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, research is an integral part of what makes Ohio State such a force in the global medical community. Its investment in research and commitment to the investigative process has led to many breakthroughs and innovative discoveries.

“The process is highly collaborative, with over 260 principal investigators performing research in the biomedical sciences,” Dr. Mohler says. “Many research programs cross disciplines to involve multiple investigators across campus which provides an exceptional environment for training for scientists and affords ample opportunities for networking.”

Gisselle Prida Ajo, a former Discovery PREP trainee, says she joined Discovery PREP with a commitment to learning and acquiring the research skills needed to continue with her education.

“As an aspiring scientist, my goal is to use science as the leading platform to help others by engineering biology to provide real-life solutions,” says Prida Ajo.

The Ohio State College of Medicine is committed to transforming the health of our communities. The Discovery PREP program is key in diversifying the field of biomedical science and preparing future researchers to enable scientific breakthroughs.