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by Marc Horowitz, Director,
Office of Loan Repayment and

Uri Treisman holds aloft
mentoring guidebook

The subject of mentoring commands a lot of attention at NIH; this summer, at a specially convened Mentoring Roundtablethe first of its kind at NIHthe focus was on mentoring students from disadvantaged or minority-group backgrounds.

Sponsored by the Office of Loan Repayment and Scholarship (OLRS), whose Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP)* supports students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the roundtable featured invited university faculty with more than 90 years of combined mentoring expertise and substantial experience mentoring disadvantaged and minority science students. More than 100 NIH denizensundergraduate and postdoctoral students, scientists, and administratorsattended the roundtable.

Guest panelists were Lawrence K. Alfred, professor of biology at San Diego State University; Frank J. Talamantes, professor of biology at the University of California at Santa Cruz; and Uri Treisman, professor of mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin. The roundtable was moderated by John F. Alderete, professor of microbiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and president of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in the Sciences.

In his 25 years of working with Chicano students, Talamantes said, he'd observed in many a deference to authority, a subdued demeanor in the presence of a generally acknowledged leader in the field. Such characteristics, he noted, could be a handicap in the world of scientific research. The mentor's challenge with such students is to help them question authority without disrespecting their cultural values. In general, Talamantes emphasized, mentors need to take students' concerns and problems seriously, listen carefully, and respect students' individuality. But they also need to challenge students' ideas of what they want to do and help them explore other options.

Treisman pointed to the learning environment as the critical factor in minority students' achieving their science career goals. Successful mentoring, he said, is most often accomplished in educational programs in which mentoring is a group enterprise with strong support and leadership from the department chair and administration. Good mentors, he said, are able to define excellence in their field, know how to achieve it, and share that information with their students. The most important mentoring tasks senior scientists can perform are to monitor student progress, publicly ask questions, and scrutinize students' lab practices, he said.

Alfred emphasized "nurturing" to help students overcome fears and to foster in them a belief in their own academic abilities. He also recommended that links be established between NIH scientists and the university mentors of students in NIH programs. He posed two key questions: How can we get more faculty members, especially those with NIH research grants, involved in mentoring? How can mentoring outcomes be measured more effectively? Panel members agreed that mentoring must be a part of the broader mission of an institution and the responsibility of mainstream faculty members, especially if disadvantaged students are to succeed in the field of biomedical research.

Michael Gottesman, deputy director for intramural research, noted that NIH leadershipincluding Director Harold Varmus and NIDR Director Harold Slavkin, who chairs the Committee for the Recruitment of Ethnically Diverse Young Talent into Biomedical Research (also known as the Slavkin Committee), are working to close the gap between students' expectations and the reality of the NIH research experience. A committee report and recommendationsa mentoring handbookare expected by year's end.

* Each student in the UGSP is assigned an NIH researcher to serve as a mentor. This mentoring relationship is initiated during a 10week summer program, when students work as paid employees in NIH research laboratories. A goal of the UGSP is continuation of the mentoring relationship into all seasons. Marc Horowitz, director of the Office of Loan Repayment and Scholarship, Office of Intramural Research, oversees the UGSP and is always eager to identify intramural scientists willing to take active roles in mentoring his program participants, especially beyond the time spent in NIH's labs. Information on the UGSP can be found at <http://ugsp.info.nih.gov> or by calling Horowitz at 4025666.
Adm. David Satcher, Surgeon General, and Rear Adm. Arthur Lawrence, senior advisor, upon arrival at NIH's Summer Research Program Poster Day, August 6. For more than two hours, the surgeon general reviewed the research efforts of nearly 400 NIH summer research students, including the 23 who had come to NIH under the Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP; see story this page), for whom Poster Day was the culmination of their 10-week experience here.

At Poster #139:

Audrey Ramirez, UGSP scholar, San Francisco State University

"My heart is in my throat. I just told the surgeon general about my research project," Ramirez whispered moments later. Her poster depicting "Mobilization of CD8+ dendritic cells in response to microbial products as visualized by immunofluorescence microscopy" reflected her research in the NIAID Laboratory of Immunology (with preceptor Ronald Germain). With her fresh SFSU degree in cell molecular biology, Ramirez will pursue a doctorate at the UCSF Program in Biological Sciences beginning this fall. She learned of the UGSP through the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science.

Marguerite Rippy (left), UGSP acting director, and Hosein Kouros-Mehr, a biochemistry major at CalTech, where he starts his sophomore year this fall. This is the UGSP's third year, Rippy said, and the first year the program is at "full strength." About one in 12 applicants qualify for the program, which awards full tuition on a yearly basis for successful candidates. After they earn their advanced degree, participants provide a "one-year payback," working at NIH for each year of support they received as an undergraduate. Kouros-Mehr, who did research on the "structure of the B30.2 domain of pyrin" (#150), under Daniel Kastner and Elizabeth Mansfield in the NIAMS Arthritis and Rheumatism Branch, aspires to a research career (PhD or MD/PhD) and a fiction-writing sideline. He's already published short stories and is working on a novel.
Andrea Borghese, who's entering her senior year at Lehman College, City University of New York, explains her research to the surgeon general and Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research. Her poster (#148) on "inducible transgenic mouse models for autoimmune myositis" captures her work in the NIAMS Arthritis and Rheumatism branch with preceptors Paul Plotz and Kanneboyina Nagaraju. "Amazing," Satcher said, as he wished her well. "He's been impressed," commented Gottesman, who'd invited Satcher to spend the day.
  photos and text by Fran Pollner

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