Formal Didactic Training
Our philosophy is that training of all postdoctoral fellows should favor research over formal didactic course work, and that the emphasis should always be placed on research productivity and attainment of independent investigator status. However, without an adequate academic background a trainee is hindered from having meaningful intellectual input, perspective, and independent thought in research. It is expected that all trainees will take (audit or for credit, based on the recommendations of the Trainee Advisory Committee) at a minimum one graduate level course in the first year. Fellows following the more traditional path of basic science and translational “bench” research have several options to correct deficits in their backgrounds of modern cellular and molecular biology, infectious diseases, and immunology.
The decision on what course work will be required is necessarily individualized, with the fellows’ Research Advisory Committee maintaining input. Course work that could be included in an individual fellow’s training plan includes any of a number of courses from within the Microbiology Department Training Program, including, but not limited to those entitled, Microbial Pathogenesis, Biochemistry, Structure and Function, Fundamental Immunology, and Gene Structure, Expression and Regulation. All of these courses are taught each year; it is anticipated that fellows would take a total of no more than two graduate level courses. Additionally, since 1996, the Program faculty has organized and taught an extremely well attended (30-40 trainees from the medical school) summertime “how to” course in molecular biology which all trainees are encouraged to attend. The Research Ethics Course (GSAS 710) is required by all trainees.
Evaluation of Progress
Each fellow has a Research Advisory Committee comprised of 4-6 faculty members from a variety of backgrounds with expertise in various aspects of the fellow’s research project. Committee members are appointed by the research mentor and fellow so that the committee can best serve their needs. This committee meets with the fellow at least twice a year to evaluate research progress and/or performance.
Central oversight of the fellow’s progress will be accomplished by (1) twice yearly research-in progress talks (once at the Divisional Didactic Conference and once at the University of Virginia Infectious Diseases Research Day; (2) summaries of trainee progress sent to the Steering Committee from the Research Advisory Committee, and (3) from annual reports from the mentor to an Executive Committee. The Program Director has an open door policy for all members (preceptors and trainees) of the Program. Criteria to measure progress of the trainees include ensuring that the fellow has adequate coursework background for the research area and that the research plan is well focused and productive. Oversight also documents that the trainee is writing original research papers and presenting at the research-in-progress and national meetings, and applying for foundation or NIH K08 or K23 grants.