• Article
  • Mar 07 2023

UK awarded NIH’s only SuRE Resource Center grant to lead national research diversity effort

Left to right: Paul Murphy, co-director; Melissa Nickell, center administrator; Brett Spear, co-director. Photo provided by SuRE Resource Center.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded the University of Kentucky a prestigious center grant to share its expertise and lead national efforts to build diverse academic research environments. This will be accomplished by the oversight of the new Support of Research Excellence (SuRE) R16 grant program designed to foster research capacity building at colleges and universities that serve underrepresented students.

Supported by a $5.6 million National Institute of General Medical Sciences U24 grant, the national SuRE Resource Center at UK will help fulfill the NIH’s commitment to expanding the number of academic institutions participating in biomedical and behavioral research. The services provided by the center include grantsmanship training, mentoring, consulting and networking to guide participants step-by-step through the complex funding process.

“The University of Kentucky is honored to receive this recognition from the NIH and is excited to partner with institutions across the country to elevate biomedical and behavioral research,” said UK Vice President for Research Lisa Cassis. “Research needs students from diverse backgrounds to pursue biomedical careers, drive innovation and propel our national scientific workforce.”

“Being awarded the only SuRE Resource Center grant in the country truly reflects the incredible breadth and depth of expertise of our faculty and staff at UK,” said Brett Spear, Ph.D., program co-director and professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics in the College of Medicine.

Spear will co-direct the program with Paul Murphy, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry in the College of Medicine and associate director for education at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging. They will work closely with the center administrator Melissa Nickell.

“This SuRE Resource Center has further solidified UK’s reputation as one of the premier research outreach institutions in the U.S. It’s an impressive achievement, indicative of our  expertise and national reputation in biomedical and behavioral research,” said Spear.

The primary goal of the program is to help under-resourced academic institutions across the U.S. and Puerto Rico that teach underserved student populations to establish and maintain faculty-led NIH-funded research. An important secondary objective is to facilitate more undergraduate research opportunities and motivate promising students to pursue careers in science.

“Intensive student-centered research experiences are an explicit requirement of faculty who are supported by the SuRE program. Ultimately, this will increase the diversity of the biomedical workforce such that it will reflect the growing diversity of the U.S. and ensure that our country maintains its worldwide leadership in biomedical and behavioral research,” said Spear.

The SuRE Resource Center will educate and train faculty and research administrative staff to help overcome barriers to secure NIH funding throughout the grant process via webinars, consultation and mentoring. For institutions committed to establishing or expanding their Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP), the center also provides competitive seed grants to facilitate those efforts.

“One of the three pillars of UK’s mission statement is to serve the global community by disseminating, sharing and applying knowledge. By sharing our substantial expertise with all aspects of obtaining NIH grants and assisting faculty and staff at institutions throughout the U.S., the SuRE Resource Center enhances this endeavor at the national level,” said Spear.

Seventeen UK faculty and staff members from the College of Education, College of Medicine, Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, Office of the Vice President for Research, Proposal Development Office, Office of Research Integrity and Office of Sponsored Projects Administration bring a collaborative field of expertise to this initiative.

“Through the expertise and generosity of these UK faculty and staff, UK has established a national reputation as a valued resource in helping institutions throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico establish and grow their research enterprise,” said Spear.

Training events are being scheduled and will be posted, questions can be sent to a regional coordinator, and answers to frequently asked questions can be found on the SuRE website.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U24GM146576. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.