Grant to advance international research skills for underrepresented students

A $1.3 million grant will provide new international research opportunities for NAU’s underrepresented students to gain hands-on experience while exploring global health disparities.

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities awarded the grant to help Northern Arizona University advance its long-term goals of enhancing diversity in the research workforce while better understanding minority health and health disparities, said Catherine Propper, a professor of biology, who is a one of the grant’s principal investigators along with Leslie Schulz, executive dean for the College of Health and Human Services.

Over the next five years, up to 10 students each year from underrepresented segments—including Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders and those from low-income or rural backgrounds—will be selected to participate in the program and work closely with researchers across campus. The students will spend two-weeks in a summer research training course at NAU that emphasizes experimental research design, procedures for analyzing and interpreting data, the use of current scientific literature and the responsible conduct of research.

The course will be followed by a seven-week international research experience coordinated between the students’ NAU mentors and their overseas collaborators.

“This international experience will allow the students to develop their research skills while focusing on issues of health disparities among Indigenous populations across southeast Asia and the South Pacific,” Propper said. “For example, students in New Zealand will be exposed to research addressing health disparities among the Māori; in Palau they will investigate health issues of Pacific Islanders; and in Indonesia they will address health issues specific to Indigenous groups from islands in Southeast Asia.”

Propper said the program also provides similar collaborations in Myanmar, Malaysia and the Philippines.

After completing the research exchange, students will return to the NAU campus for a final week of collaboration with their NAU mentors, culminating in a day of presentations about their work.

“What makes this program truly unique is its international focus,” Propper said. “The students participating over the five years of the project will be able to bring back a wealth of experience they can apply both to their own academic and personal development as well as to inform changes within their own communities.”

For information, contact