The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) is thrilled to announce the successful renewal of its Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant, titled "Enabling Technologies and New REU Approaches to Engineer Complex Tissues" will continue to offer diverse cohorts of undergraduate students unique research, education, and professional development opportunities in the multidisciplinary field of regenerative medicine (RM) over the next three years (2023-202).
Building upon the success of its previous REU program (Award #1659663, 2018-2022), WFIRM’s renewed grant has a specific focus on growing the increasing the engagement of underrepresented minority groups, women, and non-traditional students, including students attending 2- and 4-year universities. The goal is to recruit a minimum of 80% of students from these underrepresented groups each year, providing them with a chance to explore and contribute to high-priority research areas in regenerative medicine. From 2004-2021, WFIRM provided research opportunities to over 500 undergraduate students, all of whom are mentored directly by REU Faculty Mentors in an open lab environment.
“We believe that WFIRM, along with our academic and industry partners, is ideally situated to introduce, new creative approaches and partnerships, building a bigger future talent pipeline to address the need for increased diversity in STEM through providing a culture where talented people from different backgrounds are welcomed, enhanced recruitment, professional development, networking opportunities, and exposure to enabling technologies and biomanufacturing and biofabrication research priorities within the field,” stated Joan Schanck, Chief Education Officer for WFIRM, and co-Principal Investigator of the grant.
Over the course of the previous REU program, WFIRM exceeded its initial participation target of 50% for underrepresented groups, with 80% of participants coming from minority backgrounds, women, non-traditional students, and persons with disabilities. These students made significant contributions to ongoing research programs, generated new ideas, and authored conference abstracts and journal articles.
Anthony Atala, MD, Director of WFIRM and Principal Investigator for the grant expressed the Institute’s commitment to diversity and equity in regenerative medicine: “The renewed REU program will build upon the lessons learned and incorporate improvements to enhance faculty mentoring, expand recruitment efforts, and reinforce passion for STEM education and careers, creating a diverse and inclusive pipeline of talent in the field of regenerative medicine.”
Learn more information about the WFIRM REU Site and its impact on advancing diversity in STEM.
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About the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine: The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is recognized as an international leader in translating scientific discovery into clinical therapies, with many world firsts, including the development and implantation of the first engineered organ in a patient. Over 450 people at the institute, the largest in the world, work on more than 40 different tissues and organs. A number of the basic principles of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine were first developed at the institute. WFIRM researchers have successfully engineered replacement tissues and organs in all four categories – flat structures, tubular tissues, hollow organs and solid organs – and 16 different applications of cell/tissue therapy technologies, such as skin, urethras, cartilage, bladders, muscle, kidney, and vaginal organs, have been successfully used in human patients. The institute, which is part of Wake Forest School of Medicine, is located in the Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem, NC, and is driven by the urgent needs of patients. The institute is making a global difference in regenerative medicine through collaborations with over 500 entities and institutions worldwide, through its government, academic and industry partnerships, its start-up entities, and through major initiatives in breakthrough technologies, such as tissue engineering, cell therapies, diagnostics, drug discovery, biomanufacturing, nanotechnology, gene editing and 3D printing.