About the UM STAR Program

The University of Maryland School of Public Health Summer Training and Research (STAR) program is designed to provide traditionally under-represented undergraduate students with 2 consecutive summers of a 10-week research training and career development program to enhance their potential to apply for and complete graduate degrees in biomedical and behavioral science relevant to preventing and treating cardiovascular disease. 

Faculty Mentoring:
Once a trainee has been accepted into the program, their mentor will make initial contact by email and/or telephone to begin to develop the research project that the trainee will complete during the summer. It is expected that this project will be somewhat finalized prior to the trainee arriving at UM for the summer program. The faculty mentors will meet with each of their trainees every Friday during the summer to assess progress over the last week, to establish research goals for the upcoming week, and to “troubleshoot” any problems that have developed. These progress reports and goals are necessary for the trainee to present and discuss at the Monday Research Updates. One prerequisite for a faculty mentor to accept a STAR trainee is that the faculty mentor agrees to spend the appropriate amount of time necessary to ensure a successful research experience for the STAR trainee.

Monday Research Updates:
All UM STAR trainees, the two Co-Directors, and at least two faculty mentors will meet informally every Monday for 1-2 hrs with lunch provided. Each trainee will present a ~5 minute summary of his/her research progress over the past week with ~5 minutes of discussion from other trainees, Co-Directors, and mentors. The goal of this interaction is to have trainees review their own progress and set goals for the upcoming week, and for other trainees and faculty involved with the program to assess their progress on a weekly basis and help them to set realistic and achievable goals for the upcoming week. The final two Monday sessions of the STAR Program will consist of 10-minute PowerPoint presentations by each trainee similar to a podium scientific presentation at a national scientific meeting. Trainees must also be prepared to answer questions concerning their research following their presentation, again similar to what would occur at a national scientific meeting. They will be provided immediate oral feedback and later written feedback concerning this final presentation from the Program Co-Directors attending this session.

Wednesday Lunch with Graduate Students:
All UM STAR trainees and 3-4 graduate students from laboratories involved in the STAR program will meet informally every Wednesday for 1-2 hrs with lunch provided. The graduate students participating in these sessions will change every week and they will be selected to provide a wide range of backgrounds including ethnicity/race, gender, career goals, and laboratory background. In this session virtually any question can be raised and discussed. Issues that might be discussed would be: how did you decide on a research career, how did you select a program and a specific professor as your major advisor, what should a person look for in selecting a program or major advisor, among others.

Friday Journal Club:
All STAR trainees and the Co-Directors will attend this session, which is meant to develop the ability of STAR trainees to understand, critique, and present published articles related to biomedical and behavioral aspects of cardiovascular disease.  Lunch will also be provided to enhance attendance by faculty and students.  Two articles will be presented during each week of Journal Club. In the first week the articles will be presented by the Co-Directors to provide the trainees with model presentations.  In the subsequent 4 weeks, faculty and graduate students will present the articles while involving their first-year mentee in the development of the presentation. In the next 4 weeks trainees will present the journal club articles with the assistance of their faculty and graduate student mentors. The papers presented will be selected from a list generated by the Co-Directors to represent classic papers in the areas related to the research of the faculty mentors (see Table below for examples).  

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Sample Journal Club Articles

Keys A. Coronary heart disease in seven countries. Circulation Supp. 1970; I186-I195.

Ross R, Glomset JA. The pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. N Engl J Med 1976; 295:369-377, 420-425.

Ross, R.  Atherosclerosis – an inflammatory disease.  N Engl J Med 1999; 340:115-126.

Sytkowski PA, Kannel WB, D’Agostino. Changes in risk factors and the decline in mortality from cardiovascular disease.  The Framingham Heart Study.  N Engl J Med 1990; 322:1635-1641.

The Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial Results I.  Reduction in incidence of coronary heart disease.  JAMA 1984; 251:351-364.

Blair SN, Kohl HW, III, Paffenbarger RS, Jr, Clark DG, Cooper KH, Gibbons LW.  Physical fitness and all-cause mortality.  A prospective study of healthy men and women.  JAMA 1989; 262:2395-2401.

Klein S, Burke LE, Bray GA et al. Clinical implications of obesity with specific focus on cardiovascular disease: A statement for professionals from the American Heart Association Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism: endorsed by the American College of Cardiology Foundation. Circulation 2004;110:2952.

Appel LJ, Moore TJ, Obarzanek E, et al. A clinical trial of the effects of diet patterns on blood pressure: DASH Collaborative Research Group. N Engl J Med. 1997; 336: 1117–1122.

Rossouw JE, Anderson GL, Prentice RL, et al. Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results from the Women’s Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2002; 288: 321–333.

Pai JK, Pischon T, Ma J, et al.  Inflammatory markers and the risk of coronary heart disease in men and women. New Engl J Med 2004; 351:2599-2610.

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Research Related Training

Research-Related Training for first-year trainees is designed to enhance their knowledge of the process, practice, and ethics of biomedical and behavioral research.  It will introduce the trainees to a range of critical issues related to research including ethics, human research, animal research, scientific misconduct, and appropriate scientific practices.  Trainees will complete the on-line Human Participant Protection Education for Research Teams course (http://cme.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/learning/humanparticipant-protectio...) during the program.

Introduction to Research: This session is designed to inform the trainees about the different definitions and forms of research, especially as they have evolved over time. The goal is for the trainees to understand that the term “research” is not static and that it varies over time and disciplines.

Introduction to Human Research and IRBs: This session will address the evolution and current status of human subjects research protection and will address such issues as the Tuskegee study, the Belmont Report, the Office of Human Research Protections, and the recent Kennedy-Krieger case in Maryland. 

Introduction to Animal Research and IACUC: This session will address the principles and legislation that regulate the humane use of animals in research laboratories. Trainees will also become familiar with the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) web site and will complete one of the on-line AALAS training programs.

Scientific Record Keeping and Data Management: Trainees will learn about expectations for record-keeping, its purposes, how to ensure participant confidentiality, different types of record keeping, and how data management systems work, among other topics.  Students will be shown examples of study protocols and manuals of procedures. 
Scientific Misconduct and the Office of Research Integrity: A case study will be used to highlight important issues surrounding scientific misconduct.  This session will cover the Eric Poehlmann case from the beginning to the end to alert the trainees to the overriding issues that may result in scientific misconduct. 

Authorship: Trainees will be instructed as to the requirements for inclusion as an author on a published scientific paper. Readings for this session will include the general guidelines used by a number of scientific journals relative to authorship and a number of articles that directly address and discuss the issue of authorship. 
Conflict of Interest: Prior to this session, trainees will conduct a web-based search to identify the different types of conflicts of interests, find examples of conflict of interest policies (NIH and others), how real or perceived conflicts may jeopardize objectivity, and what types of conflicts are disclosed for different scientific-related activities.  A recent review article suggesting that funding source can influence study outcomes will be a reading assignment (Lesser LI, Ebbeling CB, Goozner M, Wypij D, Ludwig DS.  Relationship between funding source and conclusion among nutrition-related scientific articles.  PLoS Med. 2007 Jan 9;4(1):e5 [Epub ahead of print]).

Open Discussion/Topics of Interest: During the first 9 weeks of this program the trainees will be constantly reminded and questioned about any additional research-related training topics that they would be especially interested in discussing in the last week. Given their stated interests and career goals, we fully expect that it will not be difficult to generate one or two additional Research-Related Training topics. The Co-Directors, with the assistance of second-year trainees, will develop and present this session with appropriate readings being available prior to the session.

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Career Development Training

This component is designed for second-year trainees to significantly advance their career development and to prepare them for the next steps in their careers.  As such, this component primarily focuses on issues related to graduate school, such as mentoring, development of a Curriculum Vita, preparing for graduate school, GRE preparation, graduate school admission process, selecting a graduate school and advisor, and research and academic careers. In addition specific sessions in this component of the program are for an open forum with the School of Public Health Dean, Department Chairs, and the Associate Graduate School Dean. One session will also be dedicated to Mock Graduate School Interviews.

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End-of-Program Experience

In addition to the 10-minute PowerPoint sessions, where the trainees present their research during the Monday research updates, there will be an end-of-year poster day.  All trainees will prepare a poster summarizing their summer’s work, results, and conclusions.  This will include an abstract, which will be put on the STAR program website.  The Dean of the School of Public Health, all Department Chairs, and UM STAR faculty mentors will attend this session; other faculty members and graduate students in the School of Public Health will be encouraged to also attend. 

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Additional Professional Development Activities

Given the large number of scientific and cultural resources in the immediate area of UM, each summer the trainees, the Co-Directors, and mentors will visit three additional sites to enhance the trainees’ scientific and cultural development. These visits could include: NIH, USDA, and Smithsonian scientific laboratories, a behind-the-scenes tour of the National Zoo, Annapolis and the US Naval Academy, the White House, Senate, House of Representatives, or the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. We have specific personal contacts at the NIH, USDA, Smithsonian, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and National Zoo. In 2008 UM STAR faculty and trainees visited the National Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine at NIH, and a trip to the Baltimore Aquarium and Baltimore Orioles game. 

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Application Information

The goal of the UM STAR program is that all trainees will be supported for two consecutive summers in the program. We very strongly believe that 2 consecutive summers in the UM STAR program will significantly enhance the trainee’s experience and maximize their potential for successfully completing an advanced graduate degree in a biomedical or behavioral discipline related to the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular or related diseases. Trainees must apply for the second year of training. 
Eligibility criteria:

  • Citizen or permanent resident of the US;
  • Enrolled full-time at a 4-year college or university;
  • Currently a sophomores or junior
  • Have not already completed a Bachelor’s degree;
  • 3.0 or better cumulative grade point average;
  • Come from under-represented minority groups, disadvantaged backgrounds, and/or have a disability
    • Under-represented minority: African American or black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American or Pacific Islander
    • Disadvantaged background: Family with annual income below established low-income thresholds. Must qualify for Federal disadvantage assistance or have received Loans for Disadvantaged Student Program, or received scholarships from the US DHHS under the Scholarship for Individuals with Exceptional Financial Need
    • Disability: Physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • Desire to pursue a PhD in biomedical or behavioral sciences;
  • Willing to commit to the program for 2 consecutive summers.

To apply to the UM STAR program the candidate must submit:

  • a letter of application
    • must address:
      • why they selected the UM STAR program
      • their long-term career goals, especially with regard to graduate school and pursuing a PhD degree
      • which three STAR program faculty mentors they have selected and why
  • official undergraduate transcript
  • letters of reference from two university faculty members who are familiar with the applicant with one of these letters from a faculty member who has had the applicant in a behavioral, life, or biological sciences class.

Each candidate’s application materials will be reviewed by the UM STAR Admissions Committee based on the following criteria:

  • the candidate’s desire to pursue a PhD degree
  • the candidate’s letter of application
  • undergraduate GPA, especially in science-based courses
  • letters of reference
  • a rising sophomore or a junior
  • the diversity they add to the applicant pool
  • the mentors they have selected

​Click here to download the application form and apply.

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Yearly Schedule for UM STAR Program

Time Activity

March 1

Deadline for submitting completed applications for UM STAR program


UM STAR Admissions Committee meets twice to develop final ranked list of applicants, identify mentors, match applicants with mentors

April 1

Letters of admission sent to top applicants

May 1

UM STAR applicant signed acceptance letters must be received


Initial contacts between mentors and trainees to develop trainee’s summer research project


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