The below resources are provided as an example of the wide-ranging training opportunities available to GenHLB postdoctoral fellows.
The ability to identify an important HLB genetic epidemiology research topic and prepare a grant application that meets NIH standards is a career development milestone that requires considerable training, methodologic sophistication, and mature subject matter understanding. To ensure successful realization of this important goal, we have developed a multi-pronged approach to assist fellows in the development of competitive research grants. Training for postdoctoral fellows with limited grant writing experience (K awards and R awards) includes courses and seminars offered by the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute, NCTracs. Of equal importance is early involvement in research grant planning and preparation. As research mentors have active and successful grant support from numerous funding agencies, our program offers numerous opportunities for postdoctoral fellows to collaborate on the preparation of competitive applications. Further, GenHLB faculty organize twice-yearly formal grant reviews, which follow NIH study section format, and engage outside experts as needed.
The UNC-CH’s rich and diverse training environment provides numerous opportunities for leadership and collaboration on innovative research. In addition to formal writing support offered by the Department of Epidemiology and UNC-CH’s Writing Center, fellows are expected to hone their scientific writing skills through collaboration with their research mentor. Expectations of early and active engagement in research is reflected by our first author publications goals (two first-author publications per year, in addition to co-author publications). Importantly, the commonly used authorship model in genomics collaborations is one that ensures prominent roles (and responsibilities) for junior investigators, who work closely with their sponsors and outside collaborators. Given her sponsors’ large number and varied research projects, GenHLB fellows will have ample opportunity to further develop their scientific writing skills and publish in high-impact journals.
The UNC-CH Department of Epidemiology offers several seminar series, including a weekly CVD epidemiology seminars, which include topics of direct interest to GenHLB fellows. Both seminar series are attended by faculty, fellows, and staff across UNC-CH and strive to include multidisciplinary topics. Postdoctoral fellows are expected to present one seminar annually.
Monthly journal clubs will promote fellows’ awareness of current publications in the broad area of genetic epidemiology and CVD epidemiology, while enhancing her literature review skills. As an example, the CVD epidemiology journal club has brought together fellows and faculty for the last 11 years across UNC-CH departments and schools. Experts from the broader research community (e.g., neighboring institutions, visiting faculty) also are invited to facilitate interdisciplinary interactions and promote research networking. GenHLB fellows will present one paper annually.
GenHLB fellows are offered repeated opportunities to hone their public speaking skills. Each GenHLB fellow will present at least one seminar during his/her training. Tailored support for these presentations as well as presentations at scientific and professional meetings include rehearsals and recording of seminars for evaluation by the fellow and his/her research mentors using a guide prepared by the UNC-CH Center for Faculty Excellence. Fellows also are encouraged to leverage other UNC-CH seminar presentation and public speaking resources (https://tracs.unc.edu/). Other examples of resources include a public speaking club that assists with defenses, interviews, and professional presentations (http://www.unc.edu/bellttmi/).
The peer-led workshop is a highly successful meeting of pre- and post-doctoral fellows who share interests in CVD epidemiology research. Its dual purpose is to promote interaction among fellows at all levels and to provide a forum for group discussion and mentorship. Discussion formats vary annually according to the preference of the fellow-coordinators, and often include work in-progress presentations, focused methods lectures by invited faculty, panel discussions, and career development clinics.
A recent innovation in mentorship is provided by T32-training grant directors at the UNC-CH Gilling School of Global Public Health. Each month, a seminar is offered on a topic of broad interest suggested by T32 program directors. The first topic was “Resiliency in Science”, which was presented by Dr. Avery. By drawing from expertise across Departments, this seminar will introduce fellows to professional development topics that are broadly relevant.
GenHLB fellows have numerous opportunities to broaden their research networks. The majority of GenHLB mentors have research portfolios that feature collaborative, international research. In addition to offering opportunities to present work in progress, such projects allow fellows to interact with a broad community of scientists. Dedicated funds that support attendance at one scientific meeting annually /year also enable fellows to present their work to international audiences and develop their research network.