Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Scientific Careers Research and Development Group

Empirical Studies

National Longitudinal Study of Career Decision-Making of Young Biomedical Scientists

In 2004, NIGMS began a major new initiative to stimulate and support empirical research on interventions designed to promote interest and success of students in research careers, particularly those from traditionally underrepresented groups.  The goal was to move interventions beyond their longstanding historical underpinnings of intuitive design (based on what successful bench scientists thought should work) to designs that are based on established social science principles.  One of the most complex, intractable problems in efforts to diversify the sciences is the exceedingly slow rates of improvement at the faculty level. Faculty diversity is critical as these are the role models and mentors that shape the future science ranks.  Since efforts to date designed to improve faculty diversity don't seem to be having much effect, we have taken the position that more must be known about the true nature of the problem before new strategies can be designed.  This longitudinal study will follow a large cohort of ~400 students as they enter and progress through biomedical PhD training.  Using in-depth annual interviews we will be able to understand, for the first time, how young scientists are making decisions about potential careers with the PhD.  Many of the students will enter the study as early as their junior year in college enabling us to obtain insights into career thinking even before they start the PhD.  Our sampling and study recruitment methods will allow us to objectively compare across both gender and ethnic/racial groups, knowing that these two variables are inexorably linked.  We will also be able to compare undergraduate environments, such as women's colleges, HBCUs, research-intensive universities, and liberal arts colleges. The analytical framework for the interview data is integrating grounded theory and interpretation through multiple established social science theories.

Funded by:
R01 GM 085385 - "Career Decision-Making of Future Minority Biomedical Faculty" - Start: 8/1/2008 (PDF)
R01 NR 011987 - "Pivotal Career Decisions Guiding Potential Women Science Faculty" - Start: 9/1/2009 (PDF)

Connecting and Integrating Multiple Social Science Theories to Study and Explain Career Decisions and Professional Development of Young Scientists

This ARRA Supplement is enabling us to expand the interpretive framework for studying career decisions of young scientists and their professional development to include multiple theories.  By integrating these different 'lenses' through which student experiences and decisions are viewed, a much clearer view of the research training environment and its influence on young scientists will be obtained.  Theories being used include:

Funded by
R01 GM 085385-02S1 - Supplement to "Career Decision-Making of Future Minority Biomedical Faculty" - Start: 9/1/2009 (PDF)

From Stereotype Threat to Stereotype Management: Successful Blacks and Latinos in Science and Mathematics

Ebony O. McGee, PhD, Post Doctoral Research Fellow. Click here for a summary of the project. (PDF)