Innovative Biomedical Research Training Model Equips Students to Address Health Disparities, Increasing Diversity of Scientific Workforce




California State University, Northridge, is one of 10 universities throughout the country that successfully competed to be a part of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Diversity Program Consortium (DPC). The DPC represents a 10-year experiment in undergraduate biomedical research training—Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD)—to bring underrepresented students into biomedical research. 

Along with Cal State Long Beach and San Francisco State, CSUN has formed a CSU BUILD Alliance with the Office of the Chancellor to disseminate best practices. Now in its sixth year, CSUN’s BUILD PODER (Promoting Opportunities for Diversity in Education and Research) program has engaged more than 250 students and 120 faculty mentors in biomedical research methods training and discipline-specific skills grounded in critical race theory. BUILD PODER’s framework examines racism and emphasizes the wisdom of oppressed communities in bringing about societal transformation, laying the foundation for a socially-informed training model. Its research training approach is methodologically rigorous and involves hands-on training experiences and multiple layers of mentoring. BUILD PODER students have been found to have a stronger sense of belonging, stronger science identity, and a better sense of the social justice implications of biomedical research compared to students outside the program—even those with outside mentors. 

BUILD PODER’s “BUILD effect” on campus as a whole has a long reach in supporting the campus community through curriculum, public events and infrastructure. This includes a new Health Equity Research and Education (HERE) Center and four new faculty in health equity from psychology and health sciences, sustaining CSUN’s collective strengths in biomedical research training through research education and community-academic partnerships. This extensive research training environment is yielding real-world opportunities for learning about research in our community while addressing health disparities in the San Fernando Valley​.