Skills Development


Listed below are the details of the projects funded under PA-18-759:


Listed below are the details of the projects funded under NOT-GM-19-015:


Title: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Maintaining Clinical Skills During MSTP Graduate Work
Principal Investigator: Dean H Kedes, M.D., Ph.D., University of Virginia
Students in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) pursue both MD and PhD degrees during the course of their graduate education. MSTP students attend the first approximately two years of medical school to complete the pre-clerkship curriculum and then conduct four to five years of biomedical research. Upon receiving their PhD degree, MSTP students return to complete their clerkship rotations and earn their medical degree. The transition back to medical training is often stressful due to the prolonged separation from clinical education. To begin to address this issue, we initiated a pilot study that first included a survey of University of Virginia (UVA) MSTP students on their perception of the issue of retention of clinical knowledge through the graduate/research training period. Greater than 70% of the MSTP students responded that they would benefit from more integration of medical and graduate education. In the same survey, 95% of respondents said they would be interested in attending clinical skills retention sessions during their graduate training. In the current proposal, we describe a 1-year trial project to initiate a novel clinical skills review and maintenance curriculum for MSTP students during their graduate school training period. The curriculum will include a rigorous combination of didactics and hands-on clinical skill sessions or workshops."

Title: Administrative Supplement to Develop Laboratory Modules
Principal Investigator: Lynmarie Thompson, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Amherst
UMass Amherst has an existing program of one-credit Laboratory Modules developed by the Biotechnology Training Program (BTP) and its predecessor the ICE IGERT (see These lab modules are extremely useful in providing technical and theoretical training on very specialized research techniques, particularly techniques that are of great use to students for their individual research projects, but are outside the expertise of their home research lab. Due to recent investment in 26 new state-of-the-art core facilities on campus, it is an ideal time to expand the offerings of Laboratory Modules to take full advantage of these and to include the students in the Chemistry Biology Interface (CBI) program. Thus, we are requesting supplemental funds to develop eight new Laboratory Modules that will serve both CBI and BTP trainees. These Laboratory Modules will take advantage of cutting-edge expertise of CBI and BTP faculty at UMass, the UMass Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) Core Facilities and their PhD-level directors, and industrial liaisons. Each module will run for eight hours a day for two days; students will earn 1 course credit.

Title: Implementation of Curricular and Training Activities to Build Resiliency
Principal Investigator: Robert Levenson, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University
We plan to use this administrative supplement to enhance our MSTP program, in its third year of funding, by providing support for the development and implementation of curricular and training activities aimed at fostering essential professional skills to build resiliency in our current trainees. We feel strongly about the importance of providing our trainees with an enhanced skill set to become successful physician-scientists, and this commitment represents a key component of our NIGMS-funded MSTP T32 training grant. As described in our original proposal, we have developed several mechanisms to provide professional development training for our students, and we wish to augment those key elements with new training sessions to promote resilience, grit, wellness, leadership, teamwork, and a stronger sense of community. Because we only recently achieved MSTP funding, we feel our students would benefit greatly from enhanced professional development sessions in these areas. In addition, we are concerned about the growing evidence that medical students, residents, and academic physicians are experiencing higher rates of burnout and dissatisfaction with aspects of their careers. We aim to address this issue in our trainees by developing sessions focused on fostering characteristics that may prepare students to identify symptoms of burnout, develop qualities of resilience, foster perseverance during challenging situations, and enhance their leadership skills. To accomplish these goals, we plan on implementing three retreats (fall, winter, and spring) in which experts in these areas will lead interactive sessions that offer practical training in skills, strategies, and insights to help develop resiliency and create a culture of well-being and caring.  We also plan to survey students for each program activity in order to assess the impact of each of these new training sessions on the grit and wellness in our trainees. We aim to determine whether we can enhance development of grit and resiliency in our students through programmatic sessions and by nurturing the sense of community among students and faculty in our program.

Title: Leading and Managing People and Projects
Principal Investigator: James G. Patton, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

To advance interdisciplinary biomedical research, teams of scientists with differing perspectives and backgrounds need to work together efficiently and effectively in the pursuit of research aims. Likewise, to move basic research out of the laboratory to benefit society, scientists need to collaborate with the public and professionals from many domains. Despite the importance of managerial and leadership skills to scientific achievement, we have found in trainee surveys that PhD students typically feel underprepared to deal effectively with the human dynamics of the workplace. Fewer than 12% of graduating biomedical PhDs from Vanderbilt report receiving training in leadership or laboratory management. This lack of managerial preparedness is echoed in our discussions with bioscience professionals, who would like their PhD level employees to be more managerially savvy.

To address this skills gap, we propose a pilot Leading and Managing People and Projects module culminating in a one-day workshop. The semester-long module will combine didactic exposure to leadership and management principles with case-based projects while the workshop will showcase these principles in a laboratory research context. Trainees who complete this module and workshop will be better equipped to apply their PhD training effectively in careers that require a high degree of teamwork, including interdisciplinary research careers in academia and industry. They will be prepared to assume managerial and leadership roles with the skills to motivate others to be productive and successful. The resulting better-trained workforce will bolster partnerships between our institution and industry and lead to positive feedback in biomedical workforce development efforts.

Title: Science Communication Credential (SCC) to Enhance PhD Student Communication Skills
Principal Investigator: Lawrence Snyder, M.D., Ph.D., Washington University
Biomedical researchers make incredible breakthroughs every day, but policy-makers and the public rarely have knowledge or understanding of their work. This indicates a gap in communication between the public and biomedical researchers, as well as a need (and opportunity) for biomedical PhD students to develop professional skills to communicate scientific research to these groups. Scientists with communications and journalism training are best positioned to communicate research accurately to diverse audiences. Although PhD programs train students to communicate with other scientists within their disciplines, few PhD programs train students to communicate with the public despite the clear need for this type of training. To fill this gap, the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis will develop a project-based Science Communication Credential (SCC) program that integrates into existing PhD training supported by our Neuroscience T32 training grant. This curricular innovation creates a pathway for PhD students to enhance their scientific communication skills and to provide outreach to the general public, which are important professional skills for all biomedical scientists as identified by National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

Title: Skill Development in Scientific Communication and Quantitative Analysis
Principal Investigator: Lucia Rothman-Denes, Ph.D., The University of Chicago
This supplement aims to develop two modules that fill gaps in training thoroughly required for
NIGMS trainees:

Module 1- will improve students' ability to communicate their science. Although students receive feedback when they present their work at data clubs or journal clubs, the need for development of module 1 derives from the absence of a workshop that targets graduate student training to interpret their data and communicate that data effectively.

Module 2- will be developed as a new intermediate graduate level course, tentatively titled "Mathematical Modeling in Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology Workshop", to enable students to address specific scientific questions pertinent to their research using a variety of mathematical modeling approaches using a workshop format.

Both modules serve the function of developing the technical, operational, and professional skills of pre-doctoral biomedical researchers that empower students to make progress on their thesis work by providing skills broadly applicable both within academic science and in industry settings.


Title: Bioengineering Career Clusters and Frameworks
Principal Investigator: Martin L. Yarmush, M.D., Ph.D., Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
This course teaches the trainees about the full range of career paths available in the biomedical science and engineering ecosystem. The frameworks define job architectures that help to build workforce capability, enable performance, optimize costs and enable partnership with their employees toward effective job structure, rewards and career development. Although current courses in the Biotechnology curriculum appropriately deliver strategic learning for doctoral students focused on biosciences research, and the course focused on professional preparedness provides trainees with enhanced skills and specialized competence for careers in biotechnology, as a trainee explores his/her career path, it is vitally important for him/her to understand these frameworks and how they should work within them toward career advancement, understanding how to navigate influence of company size, organization structure, performance/associated metrics, work culture, growth/advancement, political/regulatory environment, societal topics/issues, etc., as well as work independence, accountability for impactful results, influence on organizations and (corporate) results, business and societal impacts, and documentation/communication responsibilities.

Title: Career Exploration and Skills Development
Principal Investigator: Alexander Gann, Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
This T32 administrative supplement aims to provide a more structured and broader career development program for graduate students of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. We propose to develop a course focused on career exploration and development of transferrable skills. Part I of the course will provide students with an overview of the different career paths, instruction to conduct informational interviews, and development of skills for research and non-research careers. Part II of the course will provide students opportunities to explore specific careers in more detail and acquire experiential learning. Implementation of such a course will enable students to have a more productive career-oriented graduate training.

Title: Communication in Life Sciences
Principal Investigator: Kateryna Makova, PhD, The Pennsylvania State University
This project will develop a new, team-taught, graduate level course in science communication. This course is divided into three modules covering the topics of a) communication and risk (e.g., processing genetic test results as risk for future health conditions, and decisions based on that processing), b) communication and emotions (e.g., messages that evoke anger, that result in defensive behaviors), and c) communication within teams (e.g., why are some trans-disciplinary teams able to share information and arrive at innovative ideas?). Each module will be taught by two instructors, one from life sciences and the other from communication. Within each module, we will include exposure to communication theory and research, case studies from real-world situations, and practical exercises. This course targets students in life science graduate programs. By the end of the course, students will be introduced to communication theories, practice applying them to real-world cases to make strategic decisions, and to improve their oral and written communication skills. They will learn how to present their work in an effective manner, be it a seminar, a publication, a fellowship application to funding agencies, or a verbal explanation to their grandparents over the dinner table.

Title: Curricular Revisions to Address Gaps in the Research Training
Principal Investigator: David H. Farb, Ph.D., Boston University Medical Campus
The major revision to the training program core curriculum will be in the form of a new one-semester 2-credit course and the formation of a standing curriculum planning and review committee (CPRC). The CPRC will oversee all major curricular amendments. The new course will be required of all trainees in their second year. The course will incorporate three key skill development modules: The Art of Scientific Writing and Publishing, Experimental Design and Research Proposals, and Computational Skills for Research in Pharmacology.

Title: Examining the Ecosystem of Emerging Technology
Principal Investigator: Suzanne Walker, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
This project aims to develop and pilot a bootcamp course where an emerging life sciences technology is examined through the lens of the academic, entrepreneurial and legislative/regulatory spheres. This exercise will expose students to the multiple careers, professional skills and social perspectives required to develop and implement technological solutions for the public good. The course will be targeted to research scientists, but will be open to graduate students across disciplines who are interested in leadership in a scientific context. The course is part of an integrated leadership and career development curriculum for graduate students in the biomedical sciences, that consists of the bootcamp, an applied skills course, and experiential learning. The project is led by the Scientific Citizenship Initiative, a new effort at Harvard that aims to equip scientists with the diverse set of skills and perspectives they need for successful public engagement within and outside of academia.

Title: Future Faculty Skills Training: Mentoring and Manuscript Writing
Principal Investigator: Lynne Maquat, Ph.D., University of Rochester
Although our T32s greatly enhance the training we provide to our students, training for research is very different from acquiring the skills needed for leading a lab. We have identified an opportunity to incorporate activities focused on two skills: mentoring and manuscript preparation. Such practices could be particularly beneficial for graduate students preparing for future academic faculty roles, as well as leaders in industry and government. With this supplement, we propose four new training activities that will allow our students to learn and practice skills necessary for the success of future faculty. (1a) A year-long Mentoring Up Workshop and Case-Study Series in which senior UR faculty will guide student discussions about conflicts that arise during graduate education. (1b) A full-day Research Mentor Training led by NRMN (National Research Mentoring Network) that will be attended by students. (2a) A six-session lunch-hour Manuscript Writing Bootcamp in which UR faculty showcase manuscript preparation processes that will increase students’ confidence and manuscript productivity. (2b) A full-day Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success Workshop led by Wendy Belcher. The combination of these four new experiences will give our students the unique opportunity to gain mentoring and manuscript preparation experience and to develop the skills necessary (earlier rather than later) to be successful future faculty.

Title: Longitudinal Inpatient Clinical Skills Program for MSTP Students During the Graduate Research Phase of Training
Principal Investigator: Hossein Ardehali, M.D., Ph.D., Northwestern University
Northwestern MSTP students follow a 2-year preclinical phase followed by a 3-4 year graduate school phase followed by a 1.5 to 2 year clinical training phase. As students progress through their MD/PhD training, one of the most difficult transitions they face is from the completion of their graduate phase of training to the clinical phase of training. To help prepare for this transition, all students participate in an MSTP clinical rewarming course and must undergo assessment before returning to the clinic phase. In addition, 80% of students engage in some form of outpatient (i.e. patient is not admitted to a hospital) clinic-based opportunities provided by the school of medicine during the research phase. Although these opportunities remain excellent resources for students, they do not provide students with a robust inpatient (i.e. patient is admitted to a hospital) clinical experience. A significant part of the clinical training phase involves learning in an inpatient setting, and it is imperative that students are provided with the skills and exposures they need to succeed in this environment, so they may progress to excellent residencies that provide the best opportunity for them to become successful physician scientists. This proposal seeks to expand on a pilot longitudinal inpatient program that will improve the current MSTP specific clinical preparedness curriculum during the graduate phase of training with the goal of ensuring strong clinical training that includes inpatient experiences that will enable students to transition smoothly to the clinical phase of training and be successful early on during this pivotal part of their training.

Title: Professional Skills Development for Biomedical Students
Principal Investigator: Michael Frohman and Markus Seeliger
The goal of this supplement application is the development, implementation, evaluation and dissemination of a curriculum for professional skills for biomedical students. Strong professional skills help students succeed during graduate studies, medical school and upon entering the biomedical workforce. In contrast, deficiencies in professional skills can hurt the progress of students and their future careers. For example, medical students with professionalism issues are three times more likely to face disciplinary actions later on in their career. In collaboration with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, we propose a yearlong Professional Skills program for biomedical students around the core theme of communication. The program design includes training modules in: effective communication, negotiation, difficult conversations, professional conduct, cultural competence, working in teams, digital media, personal development & managing change/transitions.