In fall 2014, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded California State University, Northridge’s BUILD PODER a $22 million grant for five years — the largest grant in CSUN’s history. BUILD stands for Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity and PODER stands for Promoting Opportunities for Diversity in Education and Research. Together, these acronyms signify a new and transformational undergraduate research-training program, and CSUN’s BUILD PODER will begin with its first cohort of students this summer.
The principal investigators on the grant are Crist Khachikian, associate vice president of research and graduate studies; Gabriela Chavira, CSUN psychology professor; Carrie Saetermoe, CSUN psychology professor; and Maggie Shiffrar, assistant vice president for graduate studies.
In mid-July, the first cohort of BUILD PODER students began the Summer JumpStart Program, which prepares students to enter research fields.
“This program aims to increase the diversity in the biomedical research workforce by providing research opportunities for 300 students who traditionally would not choose a biomedical research career,” said Chavira, student training core director for BUILD PODER.
The program is a two- or three-year track for undergraduate students who are interested in conducting research in the areas of health and health disparities. Students entering sophomore and junior years are paired with faculty mentors in their majors and work alongside their mentors throughout the academic year. Each year, they present their research to regional and national conferences as they prepare for graduate studies.
The program provides tutoring for challenging courses in students’ majors, pays 60 percent of tuition and provides funds for travel to conferences.
“We want to keep students in their biological, health and social science majors,” Chavira said. “Most importantly, BUILD PODER gives students a supportive community that provides the tools to prepare them for doctoral studies.
“Two of CSUN students’ biggest obstacles to academic success are financial concerns and time. Many students come to CSUN for their classes and leave as soon as their classes are over. BUILD PODER provides funding for students to remain on campus and be involved in a mentored research experience with culturally responsive faculty.”
BUILD PODER is a large regional program that partners with six community colleges (East Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles Valley College, Mission College, Pasadena City College, Pierce College and Santa Monica College) and five local, doctoral-granting institutions (Claremont Graduate University, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara).
Students and faculty interested in applying can find out more information about BUILD PODER on the website http://www.csun.edu/build-poder.