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Sustainability ; 13(11):6133, 2021.
Article in English | MDPI | ID: covidwho-1259591

ABSTRACT

When COVID-19 caused worldwide cancellations of summer research immersion programs in 2020, Mayo Clinic rallied to create an alternate virtual experience called Summer Foundations in Research (SFIR). SFIR was designed not only to ensure the continuance of science pathways training for undergraduate scientists but also to support undergraduate mental wellbeing, given the known pandemic stressors. A total of 170 participants took part in the program and were surveyed pre-post for outcomes in biomedical research career knowledge, biomedical research career interest, research skills confidence, and three dimensions of mental wellbeing. Knowledge of and interest in careers involving biomedical research rose significantly following participation in SFIR. The participants’ mean research skills confidence also rose between 0.08 and 1.32 points on a 7-point scale across 12 items from the Clinical Research Appraisal Inventory. Success in science pathways support was accompanied by positive shifts in participant mental wellbeing. Measurable decreases in stress (Perceived Stress Scale, p <0.0001) accompanied gains in resilience (Brief Resilience Scale, p <0.0001) and life satisfaction (Satisfaction with Life Scale, p = 0.0005). Collectively, the data suggest that core objectives of traditional in-person summer research programming can be accomplished virtually and that these programs can simultaneously impact student wellbeing. This theoretical framework is particularly salient during COVID-19, but the increased accessibility of virtual programs such as SFIR can continue to bolster science education pathways long after the pandemic is gone.

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