UNM's Prevention Research Center, the Department of Pediatrics, and researchers and educators from the UNM College of Education have been awarded nearly $1.3 million over five years from the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) to implement a science enrichment program in five tribal and non-tribal (predominantly Hispanic) middle schools in rural New Mexico.

American Indians and Hispanics historically have been under-represented in the scientific fields, and there is a steady decline in the number of American Indian and Hispanic students graduating with science and engineering degrees. Further, chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer are a major health concern for American Indians and Hispanics.

"The lower representation of American Indians and Hispanics in the sciences coupled with higher burden of chronic diseases among these populations poses a serious national challenge," Shiraz Mishra, professor of Pediatircs said. "Through the use of innovative technologies and educational strategies, we hope to foster and nurture interest among middle school students about careers in the sciences."

SEPA was created to encourage active biomedical and/or behavioral scientists to work as partners with educators, media experts, community leaders, and other interested organizational leaders on projects that improve student understanding of the health sciences in K-12 education, and increase the public's understanding of science.

American Indians and Hispanics historically have been under-represented in the scientific fields, and there is a steady decline in the number of American Indian and Hispanic students graduating with science and engineering degrees. Further, chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer are a major health concern for American Indians and Hispanics.

"The lower representation of American Indians and Hispanics in the sciences coupled with higher burden of chronic diseases among these populations poses a serious national challenge," Mishra says. "Through the use of innovative technologies and educational strategies, we hope to foster and nurture interest among middle school students about careers in the sciences."

SEPA was created to encourage active biomedical and/or behavioral scientists to work as partners with educators, media experts, community leaders, and other interested organizational leaders on projects that improve student understanding of the health sciences in K-12 education, and increase the public's understanding of science.

The NM FRESH: New Mexico's Future Researchers Exploring Science and Healthresearch project is the first time in the 21-year history of the NIH SEPA program that New Mexico, an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) state, has received a SEPA award.

"This project builds on the UNM PRC's extensive expertise in school and community based prevention research," adds Pediatrics Professor Sally Davis. "The project will shift educational paradigms by including research-tested nutrition and physical activity content in a progressively detailed science enrichment curriculum, which will be supported by Health and Science Fairs, web-based activities to enhance critical thinking, student mentoring, and professional development for teachers."

For more information on the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), visit:http://www.ncrrsepa.org/. For more information on the UNM Prevention Research Center, visit:http://hsc.unm.edu/som/prc/.