|T H E N I H C A T A L Y S T||N O V E M B E R D E C E M B E R 2006|
|F R O M||T H E||D E P U T Y||D I R E C T O R||F O R||I N T R A M U R A L||R E S E A R C H|
THE WORD ABOUT TRAINING
OPPORTUNITIES AT NIH
is as a training ground for young investigators, who have come to Bethesda for
their postdoctoral education in research,
that the institution has achieved its most singular influence on the progress of American science."
NIH has traditionally been a training ground for future leaders in biomedical research. Those of us who were trained here and those who have trained many others know that the intramural research program provides talented mentors and research resources that are difficult to match elsewhere.
We also know that the current success and future impact of the NIH intramural program rest on the shoulders of our trainees, who provide a constant infusion of talent, energy, and creativity and do much of the work that powers our scientific productivity.
How can we be assured of continuing to attract the best, the brightest, and the most diverse population of trainees at all levels?
Some Background on New Plans
In the summer of 2004, the scientific directors generated a set of initiatives to improve and highlight various aspects of research at NIH, including our training programs. As a result of these recommendations, a committee co-chaired by Marvin Gershengorn, scientific director of NIDDK, and Jonathan Wiest, training director at NCI, suggested several approaches to improving and communicating training opportunities at NIH.
One major recommendation led to the formation of a steering committee for the newly reorganized Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) in the Office of Intramural Research. It is chaired by Eric Green and consists of several scientific directors and training directors.
This group has been extremely active; its first steps were to initiate evaluations of existing programs and to recruit a new director for the office. I am pleased to announce that Sharon Milgram, currently a professor of cell biology as well as postdoc and graduate student training director at the University of North Carolina, will be directing OITE beginning in the spring of 2007.
Reaching Out to Prospective Trainees
Although reorganization, evaluation of existing services, development of new programs, and new leadership may go a long way toward ensuring that NIH training programs retain a pre-eminent role in biomedical research, it has also been recognized that there are many potential trainees who simply know little or nothing about NIH.
Primary efforts have focused on bringing students to NIH who otherwise would not have the chance to visit and see firsthand what NIH has to offer. Two programs have already gotten underway.
The firstthe Clinical Investigator Science Training (CIST) programstarted fou years ago. Under the leadership of Fred Ognibene, the CCs director of medical education, the CIST program has each year brought more than 200 medical students from all over the country to a two-day symposium at NIH.
These students are all enrolled in highly selective year-off research programs at NIH and elsewhere, supported by NIH, private foundations, and a major pharmaceutical company. By inviting students who have already shown an interest in and talent for medical research, we hope to enrich future medical research training programs at NIH.
The National Graduate Student Research Festival, targeted at graduate students in the last year of their dissertation research, premiered just last month. Graduate students in biomedical research from all the major academic centers in the United States were invited to apply for a trip to NIH.
As detailed in the article "Graduate Students Showcase Their Research . . . " in this issue of the Catalyst, 964 graduate students applied (a substantial percentage of the total senior graduate students in biomedical research in the U.S.!), and 250 were chosen for an all-expense paid trip to NIH, where they presented research posters, heard from our scientific staff, and arranged interviews for potential postdoc positions at NIH.
Both the NIH scientific staff and the future postdocs hailed this event a big success; the majority indicated that they were likely to accept postdoc positions at NIHwhereas few indicated theyd had much knowledge of the intramural program before the opportunity arose to apply for this new graduate student program.
Looking to the Future
Because the selection committee needed to limit the number of participants to 250, many fine applicants who should be outstanding candidates for NIH postdoc positions could not attend this event.
To see whether any of the Research Festival applicants match your program interests, log in to this website using the credentials you use to access postdoctoral ads. Also, please plan to meet the potential postdocs who attend the second National Graduate Student Research Festival next October.
We are working on many more ways to improve and convey the quality of our training programs: new interdisciplinary and bridge-type programs with well-defined goals, pamphlets advertising the wealth of training experiences at NIH, improved websites, and more mailings to target institutions.
Ultimately, the best way to identify outstanding prospective NIH trainees is for every tenure-track and tenured scientist at NIH to contact their colleagues to invite them to send us their best, brightest, and most diverse candidates. I welcome your ideas about how to get the news out about training at NIH.
Deputy Director for Intramural Research
Return to Table of Contents