Who Are Our Target Students?

How do I get involved? Visit MVZ Undergraduate Opportunities
Introduction

Our goal is to ensure that the next generation of scientists and professionals have a good understanding of evolutionary biology and museum science. With climate change, invasive species, new spreading diseases, and conservation becoming more and more of a concern, institutions like the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology are now more important to science than ever before. For example, we have the resources to track changes in species over time, to figure out when invasive species and diseases were introduced into new environments, and the expertise to help predict how to best manage our remaining wild lands.

Current Recruitment

We recruit for new students through fliers at the undergraduate counseling offices of the following campus departments: Integrative Biology, Molecular and Cell Biology, Molecular and Environmental Biology, Environmental Science and Policy Management, Conservation Resource Studies. We also recruit students through the Biology Scholars Program on campus, through the classes taught by our faculty curators and graduate students, through our displays on our Cal Day open house, and through our website. At this time, most of our recruitment happens through word-of-mouth.

The Challenge: Future Growth of the Program

Increasing undergraduate involvement in research is a significant challenge for many science curricula. Among students intending to pursue careers in medicine, there is a commonly held perception that only research in biomedically-oriented labs is appropriate to their professional goals. This assumption substantially limits the opportunities available to these students and diminishes our ability to produce research-savvy graduates. Concomitantly, the perceived need to focus on biomedically-relevant coursework limits the conceptual breadth of training that these students receive. Collectively, these constraints likely prevent many promising young investigators from realizing the full extent of their interest in biology and biological research. These limitations may be particularly prevalent among members of the Biology Scholars Program, ~ 80% of whom identify themselves as prospective medical students at the time that they are accepted into the program. This pronounced focus on biomedical careers is logical given that first generation and/or low income students may be especially motivated to assist their families and communities, but it may serve to disproportionately limit the educational and research opportunities sought by these students relative to biology majors as a whole. 

Expanding Our Audience: Why target students from under represented groups?

A critical challenge to engaging biomedically-oriented students in evolutionary biology is demonstrating the relevance of this discipline to modern humans. Establishing this connection is particularly important for first generation/low income students and students from under-represented groups, many of whom are motivated to study medicine by a strong desire to assist their families and communities. Because an evolutionary perspective provides critical insights into some of the most pressing problems faced by humans (e.g., treatment of emerging diseases) – problems that are likely to disproportionately impact economically challenged or otherwise disadvantaged communities – this approach is particularly relevant to BSP students. As a result, it is especially important that these students receive the conceptual and practical training required to become effective problem solvers and intellectual leaders. Engaging these students in the process of biological research is one of the most effective means of achieving these goals, suggesting that students in programs such as BSP are particularly appropriate subjects for the proposed experiment.