Program Components

 

The training program consists of 1) Rotations, 2) Graduate courses, 3) Teaching experience, 4) Monthly Tuesday evening student seminars, 5) Monthly MBTG Journal Club, 6) Invited seminar speakers, 7) Yearly MBTG retreat, 8) Individual Development Plan (IDP), 9) Individual mentoring and career guidance. Training in Rigor, Reproducibility and Transparency permeates the entire training program.

 

1)   Rotations. All trainees regardless of graduate program participate in laboratory rotations during their first year of graduate study. Rotations differ in duration depending on program, from 4-6 weeks in Chemistry & Biochemistry to 6-12 weeks in BMS. The rotation program exposes the student to a number of different areas of research, and it allows the students to get to know different professors and laboratories. Most importantly, it gives the students the opportunity to experience particular subject areas for their doctoral research before they commit to a laboratory and research mentor

2)   Graduate courses. In order to accommodate students from a wide range of different backgrounds and graduate programs, we have devised a flexible curriculum and students are individually guided as to which courses to take. Our goal is that each student become an expert in their own research area while also gaining exposure to diverse biophysical approaches to solve important biological problems. In addition, we wish to accommodate differences in backgrounds of the incoming trainees.

3)   Teaching Experience. All MBTG trainees gain teaching experience as teaching assistants for undergraduate courses. Students TA for varying amounts of time depending on their home department:

Chemistry & Biochemistry – 3 quarters, completed in their first year. (Discussions are underway to perhaps put off the 1st quarter of TAing which occurs during rotations, and to transfer it to the 1st quarter of second year.) Chemistry & Biochemistry students take CHEM 500, in which they learn didactic skills and are mentored during their first teaching experience.

BMS – 1 quarter, usually in the second or third year.

4)   Monthly Tuesday evening student seminar. A highlight of the MBTG is the monthly Tuesday afternoon meeting in which one of the trainees presents their research. Pizza is provided, the discussion is lively, and the attendance ranges from 30 – 50 with at least 10 faculty attending most meetings. The aim of these required seminars is to encourage students to assert themselves in active discussions of their research before an audience of experts. Students sign up for their presentation date at the welcome lunch that takes place in September of each year.

5)   Invited seminar speakers. In addition to attending the regular departmental seminars, students from our MBTG training program invite and host one speaker each year. The speaker is invited as part of a regular departmental seminar series, usually in the spring quarter, but the visit is arranged entirely by the students. The students have lunch and dinner with the seminar speaker they invite. This activity provides an excellent opportunity for students to interact directly with some of the leading scientists in the area of biophysics, some of whom they may consider for postdoctoral research. In addition, the participating faculty members provide special opportunities for our trainees to meet informally with other invited speakers who visit the campus throughout the year.

6)   Yearly MBTG retreat. Once a year, typically in April, MBTG trainees and the Executive Committee together organize a one-day retreat. This retreat includes all participating MBTG laboratories and invites first-year students with interest in Molecular Biophysics. All current trainees are required to present posters during the retreat. Typically, two poster awards are given each year. Alumni trainees (those who are no longer funded, but who have yet to defend their thesis) are required to present a five-minute lightning talk and to entertain questions.

7)   MBTG journal club. Trainees participate in a monthly MBTG-sponsored journal club, whose purpose is to expose trainees to modern research questions, and to encourage active discussion and participation by all students. The students sign up for their journal club presentation date during the welcome lunch. Presenting students choose one MBTG faculty member with relevant expertise to attend as a discussion facilitator. The Journal Club also is an opportunity for training in Rigor and Reproducibility. The trainees are asked to specifically critique their chosen paper with regard to how it measures up to the high standards they are learning in the rest of the training program.

8)   Individual Development Plan (IDP). As of September 2014, every student in participating graduate programs is required to fill out an IDP with their advisor. These departmental IDPs emphasize skills specific to the graduate education in the particular program. The MBTG Executive Committee has decided that MBTG trainees should complete a second, complementary IDP that emphasizes skills specific to multidisciplinary, collaborative science in the 21st century. The MBTG IDP covers five skill sets:

1) Molecular Biophysics Research Skill Development

2) Communication Skills: Publications/Presentations

3) Teaching: Formal TA experiences and informal research mentoring experiences

4) Professional Development Skills: CV, networking, leadership

5) Outreach and community mentoring skills

The deadline for completion of the IDP is the end of January each year. We firmly believe that the IDP should be a confidential document shared only between the trainee and their advisor(s). Therefore, while completion of the IDP is assessed in the end-of-year survey that is completed by all trainees, it is otherwise kept private.

9)   Individual mentoring and career guidance. A major component of the training grant is ongoing personal and career guidance. Dr. Komives and Dr. Corbett conduct individual mentoring designed to help each new trainee make a course plan that is appropriate for their research interests but with the necessary breadth. Komives and Corbett have an "open door policy for MBTG trainees and alumni. An exciting new addition to the IDP process involves seeking mentoring beyond the thesis committee. Students aiming for a career in academia will choose a faculty member whose career they would like to emulate. For those students interested in a career in the Biotech and/or Pharmaceutical industry, we are excited about the strong group of local scientists who have agreed to be mentors for our MBTG trainees.