Early preparation and inspiration for STEM careers: Preliminary report of the epidemiology challenge randomized intervention, 2014-2015

Robin Taylor Wilson, Emma Watson, Mark Kaelin, Wendy Huebner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: Early Preparation and Inspiration for Careers in the Biomedical Sciences (EPIC) is a university–high school partnership for increasing high school student interest and persistence in the biomedical sciences. EPIC includes a year-long, project-based learning intervention, the Think Like an Epidemiologist Challenge (Epi Challenge). We describe the main components of the Epi Challenge and report on short-term changes in scientific literacy and science-related motivations and beliefs. Methods: From June 2014 through June 2015, a randomized sample of students with above-median interest in science from 5 high schools in Pennsylvania completed baseline and midyear assessments of scientific self-efficacy, beliefs regarding acquisition of scientific knowledge (personal scientific epistemology), and personal interest in science using 5-point Likert-type scales (with higher scores indicating stronger or more sophisticated beliefs). Results: Of 984 students completing baseline assessments, 110 enrolled in the Epi Challenge, and 84 remained at midyear. At midyear, mean scores for scientific self-efficacy (change = 0.26, P <.001) and personal scientific epistemology (change = 0.19, P =.004) increased significantly, but personal interest in science (change = 0.17, P =.06) did not. Increases in personal scientific epistemology were greatest for African American (change = 0.47, P =.005), free/reduced-price lunch (change = 0.35, P =.001), underrepresented minorities in science (change = 0.27, P =.002), and female (change = 0.26, P =.01) students. Conclusions: Epi Challenge participation was associated with improvement in high school students’ scientific self-efficacy and sophistication of epistemologic beliefs. Long-term follow-up of this cohort may shed light on whether such changes will be sustained and shape college major and career decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-74
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Health Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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