A Retrospective Examination of Two Professional Society–Sponsored Fellowships for Predoctoral Microbiology Students
At the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), fellowships are a key means of providing immersive research opportunities for the student sector. To assess the impact of ASM student activities and inform their planning, the Society commissioned a study of two long-standing initiatives in 2015, namely the ASM Undergraduate Research Fellowship (URF), established in 1993, and the ASM Robert D. Watkins Graduate Research Fellowship (Watkins) Program, established in 1980. A mixed-methods approach was used to collect data about the participants’ fellowship experience, track educational and employment status, and determine program impacts from 325 individuals (223 URF and 73 Watkins fellows). Challenges presented by the study include the fact that inherent in fellowships is the provision of financial support that affords participants opportunities that might otherwise be unavailable to them. As a result, participant feelings of indebtedness to the Society may have introduced biased study responses. In addition, some respondents were asked to reflect on experiences from 20 to 30 years ago—a lapse in time that may have challenged their memories. Based on measures such as enrollment in or completion of advanced degree programs, employment in science, and publication and presentation history, project participants show evidence of accomplishment. Participants also reported gains in affective behaviors such as confidence and belonging.
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