University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo undergraduates participating in a campus program that supports under-represented students interested in biomedical and behavioral sciences presented their research at a national conference in November.
The students are part of the Students of Hawaiʻi Advanced Research Project, commonly called the SHARP program, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement and administered through the UH Hilo Department of Anthropology. The program supports all under-represented UH Hilo students, particularly Native Hawaiians and Pacific islanders. SHARP develops interest and competence in biomedical and behavioral sciences research and helps students to advance to doctoral studies. Currently, UH Hilo is the only school in the state of Hawaiʻi that has a SHARP program.
First time presenting
For many of the students, the trip the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students held in Anaheim, Calif., was their first time presenting off-island at a major conference. Lenard Allen, the SHARP coordinator, said such experiences are necessary because they place the students in new situations and force them to communicate their work with strangers, which builds their confidence.
Allen said attending the conference, watching the different speakers and networking are keys to the students’ success and opens doors. “Some of our students were offered jobs during the conference,” he said.
Approximately 5,500 participants representing more than 350 institutions attended the four-day conference. Undergraduates and early researchers were invited to showcase their work through poster or oral presentations, representing 12 disciplines within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
More about SHARP
UH Hilo students in the SHARP program receive faculty mentoring, paid research assistantships and access to conferences and networking. UH Hilo students who have been part of this program have received admissions to advanced degree programs at such schools as Stanford University, the UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine and the University of California, Berkeley.
The UH Hilo SHARP program is currently funded through May 2021, at which time new NIH mandates will require 75 percent of staffing cost be provided by the university.
—By Leah Sherwood, a graduate student in the tropical conservation biology and environmental science program at UH Hilo.