Developing the workforce of tomorrow
A GRA initiative uses university research to expand STEMM talent
To keep Georgia’s economy strong and growing, Georgia students must gain the knowledge and experience that prepares them for careers in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine (STEMM). These career areas factor prominently into Georgia’s future.
Already, GRA’s work creates new jobs in university labs and startup companies to develop tomorrow’s professionals. Added to this effort is our Workforce Development Initiative – it creates opportunities to introduce more students at Georgia colleges to STEMM through university research.
The idea for the initiative originated with GRA’s Eminent Scholars. At their 2020 gathering, the Scholars discussed the importance of engaging more Georgia college students in scientific research. Their dialogue that day resolved to explore a new opportunity to provide lab experience and mentorship – and the GRA Student Scholars program was born.
The initiative centers on a wide group of students who historically are less likely to pursue a STEMM career. Included in this group are:
- Women. While gains have been made recently, women comprised just 27 percent of STEMM employees, compared to 48 percent of all workers. (Source: 2019 American Community Survey; medical professions not included)
- Hispanic, LatinX and Black students. Together, they represent 28% of employment in the U.S. but only 17.9% of STEM jobs. (Source: Pew Research Center, 2021; medical professions not included)
- Students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. These students meet at least two of the criteria listed in the National Institutes of Health definition statement regarding underrepresented populations in the U.S. Biomedical, Clinical, Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Enterprise. Two groups of priority to GRA are students who grew up in a U.S. rural area and first-generation college students.
GRA’s rationale for this focus is simple:
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job growth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is expected to increase by 10.5 percent by 2030; and in medical occupations, by 16 percent.
- The greatest potential for growing the STEMM talent pool lies in introducing more young people to STEMM careers – and university research is a logical entry point for Georgia’s college students.
- Research shows that teams comprised of people from different backgrounds, cultures, socioeconomic levels and ethnicities tend to perform better than teams whose members are more homogeneous.
How It Works
GRA’s Workforce Development Initiative has three components:
- Lab internships. GRA’s Student Scholars program gives undergraduate and graduate students at colleges across the state the opportunity to work alongside a top scientist for an entire semester. In the summer of 2023, 14 undergraduate students from colleges and universities across Georgia held internships in the labs of GRA scientists. These students represent the third annual cohort of the GRA Student Scholars program. Additional students will intern in the 2023-24 academic year during fall and spring semesters. Details about the program >
- STEMM Career Development. Academic conferences offer a valuable opportunity for students to learn about a field, present research and make connections to professionals. Attending such conferences, however, is often outside college students’ budgets. GRA sponsors Georgia students who seek to attend select conferences in their field of study.
In 2023, GRA is sponsoring 20 Georgia students to attend the 42nd annual meeting of the American Society of Virology, hosted by the University of Georgia in Athens. This event brings together more than 1,200 virologists – experts in the field as well as students. The program includes expert presentations in various areas of virology, career workshops, poster sessions and special social and networking events.
Also in 2023, GRA is providing scholarships to 10 students and postdocs (and support for 50-75 other Georgia students) to participate in the “Vaccines During and After COVID 19” Keystone Symposium in Atlanta.
This is the first time a prestigious Keystone Conference has been held in Georgia, and it features GRA Eminent Scholar Rafi Ahmed as the conference’s keynote speaker. Keystone conferences are generally held in mountain venues in the U.S. and Canada; however, the Keystone organizers cited the number of minority-serving colleges and universities in Georgia as a factor in selecting our state as their preferred venue. The Georgia-based conference is designed to maximize networking among leaders in vaccinology and students.
- Postdoc Fellowships. In a three-year pilot project, GRA is partnering with Georgia State University and the Wilzynski Scholarship Fund to support a cohort of three postdoctoral students as they pursue research in neuroscience. The pilot project aims to demonstrate the fellowship model as a way to engage more post graduate researchers from different backgrounds, in hopes that they will pursue faculty positions at Georgia State.
If you’d like to support GRA’s Workforce Development Initiative – or learn more about it – please contact Amanda Schroeder at GRA.