MHIRT Program Information

Undergraduate college students in Hawai`i with two years of science studies under their belts have the opportunity to take part in a new program where they will learn laboratory techniques and shadow scientists on the ground in either Thailand or Central Africa during the summer.


MHIRT students and faculty at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand.

The John A. Burns School of Medicine has been awarded the International Biomedical Research Training for Minority Students grant (National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, NIH (1T37MD008636-01), the first of its kind for the University of Hawai`i (UH). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded program ($1.3 million over five years) will engage nine undergraduates and one graduate student annually in international research in tropical medicine, infectious diseases and related health sciences.

Who is eligible?

Students must belong to ethnic backgrounds that fit the U.S. government’s definition as being under-represented in biomedical research “including Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, Blacks and African Americans, Hispanic Americans or Latinos, American Indians and Alaska Natives; and rural; and low socio-economic groups.”

Unacceptable differences exist in health care access and treatment outcomes for certain ethnic groups, not only in Hawai’i but worldwide. Biomedical research can play a critical role in addressing those differences. The NIH and UH are trying to increase the number of scientists who are minorities, in hopes they will conduct research that address health disparities.

The Undergraduate Experience

Spring: Preparation

The Program takes place throughout one academic year. During the spring semester, selected students will register for one credit of directed reading (e.g. TRMD499 or equivalent) and can select to work with one of several research mentors. The one credit of course work provides time for students to select a project, read relevant literature, discuss their research topic with the UH and foreign mentor, and prepare for the summer research experience abroad.

Summer: Hands-on learning

MHIRT and Tropical Medicine students at field site in Cameroon

MHIRT and Tropical Medicine students at field site in Cameroon

In early summer, students will participate in an eight day “Introduction to Biomedical Research Workshop” at the UH and then spend about eight weeks conducting directed research in either Bangkok, Thailand, or Yaounde, Cameroon (Central Africa).  After returning, students will attend a post-workshop where they will discuss their summer research experiences in a group setting, work with biostatisticans on data analysis, discuss research results, meet with faculty mentors, and begin preparing written reports. They will also design and present “E ulu haumana” a presentation of their results for their families, friends and faculty.

Fall: Laboratory Research and Presentations

During the following Fall semester, students may continue to conduct research in laboratories at UH if they wish, and will present their results at a symposium in the Spring semester.  The students will also serve as mentors for the next year’s incoming students.


To learn about  the 2014 MHIRT student experience see:

MHIRT Trainees

MHIRT Newsletter Archives

The Graduate Experience

Graduate students interested in biomedical research will spend one semester conducting research in either Thailand or Cameroon. The research project should address a topic related to health disparities and related to their on-going MS or PhD research projects. The selected students will be able to attend the summer introductory workshop before spending one semester abroad. Students may apply for either the fall or spring semester. The trainee, his/her academic mentor at UH, and the international mentor will discuss the research project. Then, the trainee will submit a written proposal to the international mentor and his/her dissertation committee for approval.

Financial support    

Students will receive $1,000/month for three months (total $3,000) for participating in the summer program. The training program will cover the cost of airfare, visa, and all entrance/exit fees. Housing at the foreign site will be arranged and provided to students participating in the program.

Who to contact for additional information:  

If you are interested in applying for the program, please follow the application instructions provided below. To discuss the program with our faculty, please contact Dr. Sandra Chang, Dr. Vivek R. Nerurkar, or Dr. Diane W. Taylor by email:

How to apply:

Application information may be found on the MHIRT Application webpage.

by Tina Shelton on January 1, 2014 in News