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Dr. Jeffrey Rosen C.C. Bell Professor of Molecular & Cellular Biology and Medicine Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX 770309-3498 Postdoctoral.

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Presentation on theme: "Dr. Jeffrey Rosen C.C. Bell Professor of Molecular & Cellular Biology and Medicine Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX 770309-3498 Postdoctoral."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dr. Jeffrey Rosen C.C. Bell Professor of Molecular & Cellular Biology and Medicine Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX 770309-3498 Postdoctoral Survival Skills

2 What is a mentor? The original Mentor was described by Homer as the “wise and trusted counselor” whom Odysseus left in charge of his household during his travels. Reference: Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend On being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering. National Academy Press, Washington DC 1997

3 Key Principles Outlined in the Book “Zen and the Motor and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (kindly provided by Dr. Richard Santen at UVa). The Mu Experiment: if one asks a question based on a research hypothesis and the results do not answer yes or no. This is the Mu experiment. The results of such experiments force one to raise a hypothesis that was not thought of prior to the experiment. Science often advances more rapidly with the Mu experiment than it does when one asks questions based on hypotheses that have been suggested by other data. The mentor needs to point out that if one gets Mu results, the investigator should believe their own data and try to explain it by raising alternative hypotheses.

4 Quality is to be sought after in science. The Greeks used the word Arrete to define quality. It is not clear whether the word arête means excellence or quality or a combination of the two. The motorcycle mechanic must maintain quality or excellence as does the investigator. The mentor needs to convey this. The scientist must avoid “truth traps”. These are conditions in which one is easily confused or misled by the superficial nature of the information available at the time that the experiment is being done. In science this would be to interpret one’s data by a facile hypothesis which is wrong as opposed to the more esoteric hypothesis which requires much more imagination to conceive. The term “Truth trap’ was introduced in Zen.

5 “Technical traps” are similar. In order to avoid a technical trap, one must very carefully design experiments. The example in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is the experiment where the motorcycle is taken apart completely. If one part is put in when reconstructing the motorcycle at the wrong time or in the wrong place, the motorcycle will not work. The author indicates it is very important to write down each specific step in the order performed. This refers to the parts that are disconnected. The mechanic must describe each of the parts as they are being disconnected. When the parts are then reconnected it is possible to put each together in a precise fashion. The parallel is designing an experiment in which one must precisely think through each component of the experiment so that it can be designed with precision and therefore it has a high likelihood of working. This emphasizes the thought that is necessary to go into designing each specific experiment with a great deal of thought and precision.

6 The precise step by step precision relates to the recording of each step in a scientific notebook so that one can later see what might have gone wrong if the experiment does not work. The mentor with his/her experience can convey the importance of this to the mentee.

7 Developing Your Own Project to Take With You With thanks to Fariba Behbod, Pharm.D., Ph.D.

8 NRSA/K99/R00 and Other Transition Awards Research Project Candidate Career Development Plan Mentoring Team Sponsors/Environmental and Institutional commitment Review Process/Resubmission

9 Research Project

10 Description of a Good Research Project Given the current state of knowledge, the proposed research is the next logical thing to do. – The current state of knowledge should be well described and the big picture should be clearly stated. Descriptive vs. mechanistic studies – Both may be included, but the latter are critical. – A favorable research project is one that is: Descriptive and mechanistic. Basic and translational. At least one specific aim is innovative.

11 Description of a Good Research Project Build a strong mentoring/research team based on study aims. From the very beginning, solicit advice from mentors/national experts in the field. Discuss both technical and conceptual limitations of the project and your plans of action. Use models, visual illustration of experimental scheme, timelines, and statistics.

12 Description of a Good Research Project Are outcomes, potential problems, and alternative approaches thoughtfully considered? Is there a clear delineation between the studies performed during the mentored and independent phases? Clearly state how you will overlap and how you will distinguish your research from your mentor’s. Does the proposed research have the potential to significantly contribute to the goals of the program/institute?

13 Candidate

14 Is the candidate an independent, productive, and mature junior scientist? Reasonable publication record in quality journals Fellowships or other evidence of ability to write grants Strong letters of recommendation

15 Developing Candidate Statements Previous and present research experience and accomplishments What makes you the top 5% candidate. What are your specific qualifications that make this project a success. Current expertise should be stated as well as future expertise gained during the career development (tailored to the research objectives). Be realistic and not overly ambitious.

16 Developing Candidate Statements If limited experience/publications: state limitations, for example new and challenging techniques etc. Mentor’s letter can help.

17 Career Development Plan

18 Does the candidate have a well defined career development plan? Describe in detail how you will use the mentored phase to acquire new skills/methods. How will you interact with your mentors? Describe how you will present your research, attend seminars, participate in journal/data clubs. How will you use this additional training to distinguish yourself from your sponsor? Career development objectives should include: Didactic course work and hands on training needed to achieve the objectives of the research plan. A plan for attending ethics courses, journal clubs, seminars, data review, lab meetings, and conferences.

19 When you finish the mentored phase will you be well positioned to seek an independent faculty position and compete for an R01?

20 Mentoring Team

21 Do they have a strong record of providing excellent training? Are they established, well funded investigators? Are they committed to your training and successful transition into a faculty position?

22 How to Establish a Strong Mentoring/Research Team Your mentoring team should be chosen based on the proposed specific aims of the project. – Co-mentors/collaborators help fill in the gaps when specific aims are outside your and/or your mentor’s expertise. – Co-mentors/collaborators for basic science grants vs. epidemiological vs. clinical/translational grants.

23 How to Establish a Strong Mentoring/Research Team Trainee’s research project preferably should be distinct from the mentor’s research project. However, If research area is too different, however, there will be questions on whether the mentor is appropriate for the proposed project. For NRSA proposals this is less of a concern.

24 Mentor’s Statement About the candidate – Research abilities and potential to contribute significantly based on current expertise and research training. – Evidence of candidate’s research productivity (good place to discuss unpublished papers). – How candidate’s current and future training will prepare him/her to implement a successful independent phase. – Why there is a need for additional training. – Candidate’s commitment to a career in biomedical research. – Candidate’s current and long term research goals.

25 Mentor’s Statement About the mentor – Mentor’s commitment to support the candidate. – Systematic plan of action for training, mentoring. – Co-mentors efforts should be synergistic. – A plan to make the training tailored to candidate’s needs with the ultimate goal of becoming independent. – Make a convincing case that the training will enhance the candidate’s career and will allow the pursuit of a novel or promising approach to a particular research problem.

26 Mentor’s Statement About the mentor – Each mentor should state clearly his/her specific role on the project at each phase. – A plan for candidate’s evaluation of progress. – Mentor’s research qualifications and previous experience as a research supervisor, track record of funded research.

27 Mentor’s Statement About the project – Innovation, employing novel concepts and approaches, methods, tools, etc. – Addressing an important issue in the field. – Experimental design is feasible. – Significance of the proposed research. – Potential to contribute significantly to the scientific literature and is consistent with the NIH mission.

28 About the institution – Institution’s commitment should be made clear. – Assure the availability of research facilities, resources, training, faculty collaborators. – Uniqueness of the scientific environment that benefits the proposed research. Mentor’s Statement

29 Sponsors/Environmental and Institutional commitment

30 Description of Institution/Environment Describe in detail the resources and the expertise available to you at your institutions. The institution is conducive to your training. Supports collaborative efforts, scientific interactions. Has a number of scientific leaders.

31 Review Process and Resubmission

32 Review Process Scores are based on: – Significance – Approach – Innovation – Investigator – Team of collaborators – Environment – Proposed Training Program – Budget

33 Review Process In a training grant, emphasis is on the training program, mentors, and environment. In an investigator initiated grant, emphasis is on the investigator, significance, approach, innovation, environment, and budget.

34 Review Process Discussed by Mock Study Section. Do your homework, for NIH review groups, look up panel members and do a PubMed Search. No guarantee that they will actually be at the review meeting, but it can’t hurt to know their expertise while writing your proposal.

35 How to Revise Unfunded Grants for Resubmission Understand when it might be best to abandon a research idea versus knowing when to revise and resubmit Often one critical preliminary experiment can change a grant from being triaged to funded.


37 #10: Wait until your laboratory is set-up and funded before you agree to take on too many other tasks, e.g. committees, teaching review panels, etc ! Rosen’s Top Ten List

38 #9: Begin collecting data on grant topic at least a year prior to applying for grant, i.e. if you have 2-3 specific aims, you should have some preliminary data for 1 or 2 of the aims. Always keep some data in reserve so your research progress will always be ahead of the grant!

39 #8:Publish or submit for publication as many papers as you can in high quality journals before submitting the grant! You may wish to defer applying for an RO1 grant initially until your laboratory is established and papers are published. Funding from several smaller pilot grants and local agencies is a good way to start your laboratory.

40 #7: Ask unique questions and don’t be afraid to emphasize the originality in your proposal. However, avoid using the word novel, repetitively! If you propose to do an experiment on organism X that has already been performed on organism Y, it is unlikely to be funded.

41 #6: Make sure your grant is hypothesis driven! Discuss potential outcomes, limitations and alternative approaches. Don’t be overly ambitious! Stay focused on main problem! NIH Catch 22: If you can predict the outcome, the experiment is probably not worth doing. Uncertainty, highlights the importance of doing the experiment. However, you still need preliminary data, etc

42 #5:Apply for animal, biosafety, etc. protocols early! These are laborious, time consuming and must be approved before the grant is funded. More than half of the grant isn’t science! Get appropriate statistical and bioinformatic support.

43 #4: Obtain letters of support to include with your grant from experts in areas in which you are not, either technically or with respect to the biological system, e.g. breast cancer. You cannot do everything in your own laboratory. Don’t be afraid to collaborate.

44 #3: Give your grant a general title: With a broad title your research can evolve and change directions and still fit within the topic. N.B. You can use the same title on one revision, and then must change the title.

45 #2: Use key words in the abstract and title to help steer your grant to the best review panel for your grant! Check program announcements and go online and see who is on each review panel to improve your chances. Contact the appropriate Program Official to get advice before submission. Write a cover letter to the Head of the CSR and the SRA for that panel requesting that they review your grant..

46 #1: Complete your draft at least a month before the deadline! Have it read by students or fellows in your own laboratory, but also by those senior to you(each department chair should appoint a mentor to junior faculty!) and someone outside your area. Make sure someone who doesn’t know what you are doing can understand the grant! Choose someone who will provide constructive criticism.

47 Be Politically Active!!! Elect Congressmen Who Understand Science!!!

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