Grant program seeks to encourage diversity in research
A new grant-funded program will bring diverse undergraduate learners to the School of Dentistry to explore research and basic sciences.
Kim Mansky, PhD, received a $650,760 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to implement the Minnesota Craniofacial and Oral Health Research Experience (MnCORE).
Beginning in the summer of 2023, MnCORE will invite undergraduate students in their sophomore and junior years of college to the School of Dentistry for ten weeks to complete a research project under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Applicants must be BIPOC or otherwise underrepresented students, and should have an interest in pursuing further education, such as a DDS or a PhD.
Mansky found inspiration for the grant based on her experiences with the Minnesota Craniofacial Research Training Program (MinnCResT), which provides fellowship and support for graduate students and DDS/PhD candidates. “We get excellent learners for MinnCResT, but we don’t get many students of color,” Mansky said. “I’d like to encourage more students from underrepresented backgrounds to apply, and I think the best way to expose them to what the School of Dentistry offers is to invite them here to see what a great environment we have.”
Mansky also hopes the program will increase diversity in research and in dentistry overall—something she sees as essential to advancing scientific inquiry and providing excellent care. “People with different experiences bring new views and thoughts, and that helps us find new ways of looking at things and solving problems,” she said. “But we also know that in medicine and dentistry, there are a lot of underserved populations. Increasing the diversity in the workforce will better prepare us to serve all people and understand the issues underserved communities face.”
With the first round of applications due February 15, and the first cohort of students joining the school in the coming summer, Mansky is excited to see how the program impacts students and mentors alike.
“Working with undergraduates is so rewarding, because everything is still new for them,” she said. “For a lot of them, it’s their first time being in the lab. Sometimes, we get bogged down in our day-to-day work, but their excitement and their fascination with learning new things makes it fun again.”