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UTMB-CET: Career Development

Career Development

The UTMB-Center for Environmental Toxicology (UTMB-CET) Career Development program provides financial support, mentoring and training for a highly selective group of junior faculty members, with an emphasis on physician-scientists and basic researchers, engaged in translational studies and participating in collaborative research whose investigative interests complement the Center's themes and disease focus areas. We seek to foster their development as independent investigators in environmental health science, while furthering the overall mission of the Center and the NIEHS. The UTMB-CET has an established tradition of recruiting and developing young faculty members and nurturing them to become independent investigators. However, the mentoring relationships in an interdisciplinary environment can be undermined by challenges within the increasingly complex and competitive research setting of an academic health center. The successful transfer of knowledge and skills requires structure and monitoring in a carefully designed training program. A key element of our Career Development program is that it is structured around long-term, effective mentoring that provides a framework for the day-to-day integration of teaching and learning in an interdisciplinary environment. Within the UTMB-CET, the Collaborative Research Teams (CRTs) provide a transformative mechanism for pairing junior faculty with senior investigators in a mentee/mentor relationship designed to promote development of the young investigator's career. From beginning to end, the mentoring process will be guided by a variety of relationships that will be variously formal, situational and informal. Moreover, through partnership with the Institute of Translational Sciences (ITS) and the CTSA, the UTMB-CET will provide training in translational and clinical research.

The program's overall goal is to increase the number of trained, extramurally competitive, and scientifically competent scientists who will conduct translational studies in the environmental health sciences, lead clinical research teams, and eventually mentor the next generation of translational scientists. The specific objectives are:

  • To develop and integrate high-quality activities and programs that will imbue clinical and basic scientist junior faculty with the skills needed to become productive members of collaborative cross-disciplinary research teams.
  • Identify and recruit qualified students and trainees at the predoctoral (PhD and MD/PhD combined degrees) and postdoctoral (MD and/or PhD) levels, and provide them with research experiences and curricula designed to develop skills in translational research. The CRTs are also a venue for predoctoral and postdoctoral training via direct participation by these young investigators in the CRT research, meetings, and associated activities designed to promote the team's research.

Junior Faculty

Promising young investigators who bring novel technologies or approaches, or individuals whose expertise complements the Center's strategic objectives will be recruited either from within UTMB, or externally in collaboration with university departments seeking to hire new faculty. Successful candidates become affiliated with a CRT and establish a mentor/mentee relationship with a senior investigator. The criteria used to identify candidates for support included the following: a) the appropriateness of the candidate's research interests and expertise to the mission of the Center and the NIEHS; b) previous training; c) the likelihood that Center support and involvement will cultivate a competitive research proposal; d) an evaluation of a personal statement by the candidate; e) a letter of recommendation from the nominating senior faculty member—and prospective mentor; and f) past research achievements and g) an existing or potential affiliation with a CRT.

The Career Development Program provides junior faculty with up to 75% salary support for up to two years, and requires at least 75% protected time for research.

Postdoctoral Program at UTMB

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs under the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) supports several develop activities, workshops and formal training programs conducive to the career development of our postdoctoral population. The GSBS pays tuition and fees for postdocs enrolled in the certificate program. The program will provide career development following the six key research competencies identified and promoted by the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA), of which UTMB is a member. In addition, a Compact/Individual Development Plan, under which postdocs and their mentors map out and implement a career development plan, is based on programs developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Toxicology Training Grant-Sponsored Postdoctoral Education

The NIEHS has supported postdoctoral research and training in environmental toxicology at UTMB since 1990 with a Training Grant in Molecular Mechanisms for Environmental Injury (T32 ES07254). The grant has historically provides stipends for three postdoctoral trainees. Additional information can be found at http://www.gsbs.utmb.edu/toxicology/.

Predoctoral Education in Translational Research

UTMB offers a graduate program in clinical sciences intended for clinical investigators (primarily MDs) committed to clinical and translational research who required additional advanced education, including course work and mentoring, to launch successful research careers. It includes required coursework in biostatistics, epidemiology, public health, research design and methods, grant preparation and research ethics, as well as prescribed specialized and elective courses and thesis (MS) or dissertation research. These are the only state-approved Clinical Science MS and PhD programs at a public university in Texas. A new institutional commitment exists that earmarks $200,000/year for predoctoral stipends to students in the Clinical Science PhD program, as well as a new PhD program in Translational Research. All predoctoral students at UTMB engaged in interdisciplinary clinical research are eligible for these awards. The proposed Translational Research PhD will complement the existing Clinical Science MS and PhD by providing a focus on translational research training for investigators with backgrounds and orientations in basic biomedical sciences.

Toxicology Training Grant-Sponsored Predoctoral Education

Pre-doctoral Education in Environmental Toxicology. The NIEHS has aided research and training in Toxicology at UTMB since 1990 with a Training Grant in Molecular Mechanisms for Environmental Injury (T32 ES07254). This interdisciplinary Training Program supports six predoctoral trainees. Resources provided by the UTMB-CET greatly enhance the research and educational opportunities for trainees associated with the current Training Program Preceptors who are UTMB-CET investigators, in particular those attached to a CRT. The Training Program Director (Dr. Bill Ameredes), Associate Director (Dr. Cheryl Watson) and two of the three Training Grant Internal Advisory Panel Members (Randall Goldblum and Regino Perez-Polo) are UTMB-CET investigators, attesting to the close relationship between the UTMB-CET and Toxicology Training Grant.

Professional Development. A major goal of the interdisciplinary NIEHS Training Program is to prepare trainees for independent careers in research, teaching, or the application of toxicology information to areas such as risk assessment and our legal system. Professional development of all predoctoral toxicology trainees is fostered in the following ways: 1) by facilitating access to core laboratories and other resources of the UTMB-CET; 2) by providing regular opportunities to meet in small groups with visiting seminar speakers; 3) by helping trainees prepare presentations of their research in oral platform or poster formats; 4) by providing guidance in the formulation and preparation of applications for individual fellowship and Pilot Project research funds; 5) by encouraging their participation in the development of mini courses and in the organization of regional scientific meetings; and 6) by providing them with experience mentoring undergraduate students who conduct research projects in the laboratories of Training Program preceptors as part of our Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). Since UTMB is not an undergraduate institution, teaching opportunities are scarce for trainees at UTMB. To overcome this, in January 2004 we provide all NIEHS trainees the opportunity to participate in the development, teaching and grading of an undergraduate toxicology course at TAMUG [the Galveston branch of Texas A&M University\. All trainees receive constructive assistance with their lesson plans, lectures and exam questions and can receive credit for their teaching effort by enrolling in a course "Teaching in Toxicology".

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