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This is the first competitive continuation of a Bridge to the Ph.D. graduate training partnership in the biomedical sciences between North Carolina Central University (NCCU) M.S. and Wake Forest University (WFU) Ph.D. programs. In the first cycle of funding, we built the program at NCCU to support four to six M.S. students in Biology (particularly in cardiovascular and neuropharmacology research), and have successfully sent our first Bridge M.S. in Biology graduate to the WFU Physiology and Pharmacology Ph.D. program. We now propose a goal to expand the disciplines of study at both partner institutions and to develop mechanisms to foster a smoother transition between the two phases of academic training for our students. Aim 1 proposes to expand the program at NCCU to embrace students participating in the expanding number of research disciplines that are being developed at this institution. This will be accomplished as NCCU formally develops an internal minor in biochemistry within the Chemistry M.S. program, and develops advanced graduate coursework in cancer biology, bioinformatics and bioprocessing. Aim 2 proposes to expand the participating programs at WFU. This will be accomplished with the inclusion of the well established Ph.D. programs in Biochemistry, Cancer Biology, Neuroscience, and Molecular and Cellular Pathobiology. Aim 3 proposes to strengthen transition to the Ph.D. phase for students. This will be accomplished by fostering student participation in NCCU and professional society programs in which student research communications skills are developed, by incorporating research rotation modules at WFU for students during the completion of their M.S. phase, and by continuing to develop research collaborations between the faculty at the two institutions that can facilitate student interactions with researchers at the Ph.D. institution prior to entering the Ph.D. phase of the training. In the next cycle of funding, we expect to be able to support six M.S. students through two to three years of M.S. graduate research assistantships with tuition, send two Ph.D.-directed undergraduate students per year to WFU for an intensive summer research experience, and support travel for each student to a professional society meeting to present their work.

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