Institutional Interventions That Remove Barriers to Recruit and Retain Diverse Biomedical PhD Students

CBE Life Sci Educ. 2018 Jun;17(2):ar27. doi: 10.1187/cbe.17-09-0210.


The faculty and student populations in academia are not representative of the diversity in the U.S.

Population: Thus, research institutions and funding agencies invest significant funds and effort into recruitment and retention programs that focus on increasing the flow of historically underrepresented minorities (URMs) into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline. Here, we outline challenges, interventions, and assessments by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) that increased the diversity of the student body independently of grade point averages and Graduate Record Examination scores. Additionally, we show these efforts progressively decreased the attrition rates of URM students over time while eliminating attrition in the latest cohort. Further, the majority of URM students who graduate from the GSBS are likely to remain in the STEM pipeline beyond the postdoctoral training period. We also provide specific recommendations based on the data presented to identify and remove barriers that prevent entry, participation, and inclusion of the underrepresented and underserved in the STEM pipeline.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / education*
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Education, Graduate*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Engineering / education
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mathematics / education
  • Minority Groups / education
  • Personnel Selection*
  • Social Support
  • Students*
  • Technology / education