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DBMI program for undergrads receives grant renewal from NSF

Apr. 15, 2021, 9:25 AM


by Mia Garchitorena

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a three-year grant renewal for Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program for Access to Training in Health Informatics (REU-PATHI).

Kim Unertl, PhD

The grant was made to principal investigator Kim Unertl, PhD, associate professor of Biomedical Informatics and director of Graduate Studies in the department. Brad Malin, PhD, professor of Biomedical Informatics, Biostatistics and Computer Science, vice chair for Research Affairs in Biomedical Informatics and affiliated faculty in the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, is co-principal investigator. The grant is in the amount of $405,000.

“Receiving the NSF REU Site award initially helped us take our summer program to the next level, and this renewal keeps the program moving forward with tools to engage even more undergraduate students with exciting and meaningful informatics research,” said Unertl. “Everyone at VUMC who is part of this program puts a lot of energy and commitment into reaching students new to our field, and receiving this renewal showed us that what we’re doing is making a difference.”

Brad Malin, PhD

The purpose of the REU-PATHI is to provide 10 undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to engage in scientific research over a period of 10 weeks during the summer. The students study a range of topics, including computer and basic science, engineering, social science and precision health, and participate in a group design challenge. The program also prepares students to identify, design, develop, deploy and study innovative technology-based solutions for important health-related problems; and discover different pathways into science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.

A highlight of the REU-PATHI Site is that faculty mentors in DBMI are matched with students to help develop their knowledge, skills and experience in health informatics research. The program also allows students in DBMI’s high school internship program to build connections with undergraduates and graduates of the REU-PATHI program.

“A renewal from the NSF provides validation that our initial vision in creating training opportunities for undergraduates in health informatics was well founded,” said Malin. “The success of this program would not be possible without the outstanding set of students and dedicated faculty who have contributed their time and energy.”

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