How Altruism Impacts Minority Students’ Academic and Career Paths in STEM Fields

BlackMDData from the National Science Foundation shows that of the 597,000 college graduates who hold jobs in biological or medical sciences, only 2.7 percent are African Americans.

Scientists at Montana State University and California State University, Long Beach, have produced a new study that found that students from underrepresented minority groups are more likely to pursue courses of study and careers in the biosciences if they believe that pursuing this life path will help them solve problems in their communities.

The research team speculated that underrepresented minority students in the sciences would be more likely to be interested in bioscience as a career if mentors linked the work they did in the laboratory to the students’ cultural values. The study involved surveys of research assistants for bioscience faculty members at several colleges and universities. The results showed that research assistants from underrepresented minority groups who saw the altruistic values of conducting biomedical research that would benefit their community felt more involved with their research over time, which, ultimately enhanced their interest in pursuing a scientific research career.

The study, “The Role of Altruistic Values in Motivating Underrepresented Minority Students for Biomedicine,” was published in the January issue of the journal BioScience. It may be accessed here.

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