Program in Biological Sciences Links Emory University and Atlanta
NIH-Funded FIRST Program Trains Science Graduates for Both Research
More than 25
postgraduate science students in Atlanta universities are training to
become researchers and college teachers in the biological sciences through
the Fellowships in Research and Science Teaching (FIRST) program. The
FIRST program has just completed its second year of a five-year grant
of nearly $7 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to
Emory University and five institutions within the Atlanta University
The FIRST program aims to
significantly increase the number of graduates who are well prepared
to work in academia or industry in a specific area of research and to
teach in universities and colleges serving minority students. The program
recently has been renamed, after it originally was called the Postdoctoral
Research and Education Program (PREP). During their three-year program,
the fellows perform laboratory research and teach science to undergraduate
students under the guidance of a faculty scientist mentor.
The Emory-AUC FIRST consortium
is one of four such programs in the U.S., each of which includes nationally
top-ranked minority-serving institutions as equal partners with a nationally
ranked research institution. The five AUC institutions are Clark Atlanta
University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Morehouse College, Morris
Brown College and Spelman College. Half of the current group of 25 fellows
are members of minorities. The FIRST program has funding available for
up to 32 fellows this year. Recent graduates with a Ph.D. or equivalent
degree are eligible to apply for fellowships.
In addition to the original
grant, the National Institute of Human Genome Research at the NIH has
independently funded two Atlanta FIRST fellows in the area of genomics
and bioinformatics positions that were filled by African-American
women whose Ph.D. degrees were in these areas.
The original group of FIRST
fellows, who began their training in 2000-2001, organized and produced
a workshop at Morehouse School of Medicine in the spring of 2002 on
Gender, Race, and Teaching.
"The FIRST program is enabling
Atlanta and the AUC institutions to attract and train excellent students,
many of whom will likely remain to become faculty in Atlanta's undergraduate
minority-serving institutions," said Robert Gunn, Ph.D., chair of the
Department of Physiology at Emory University School of Medicine and
principal investigator for the FIRST program. "The program also is providing
us an opportunity to enhance the relationship among the faculty, students
and administration of the universities at the AU Center and Emory,"
The FIRST program supports
traditional interdisciplinary research education for three years, led
by established laboratory investigators from Emory or one of the AUC
schools. This is combined with concurrent mentorship in classroom methods
and technologies, course development and teaching practice in undergraduate
minority-serving institutions. Students team teach a course with a fellow
postdoctoral student and launch the course on the worldwide web.
Faculty in the FIRST program
are members of 13 biological sciences departments in the six schools.
Emory physiologist Douglas C. Eaton, Ph.D., is co-director of the program
and Emory biologist Arri Eisen, Ph.D. is teaching coordinator. The executive
committee also includes Dr. Isabella Finkelstein, Clark-Atlanta University;
Dr. J. K. Haynes, Morehouse College; Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith, Spelman
College; Dr. David Potter, Morehouse School of Medicine and Dr. Sobrasua
Ibim, Morris Brown College. Emory faculty represent the departments
of microbiology and immunology, pathology, biology, physiology, biochemistry
and cell biology.