All aspects of the UCSF CIRM Training grant were extremely successful. Below we describe elements of the program that contributed to its success. They included strategies used for recruiting scholars, activities that the vibrant UCSF community had to offer, courses the scholars could take and how the program was administered. By combining all these elements, UCSF offered a unique environment that greatly benefited our scholars.
As to recruitment, we devised very effective mechanisms for reaching the entire UCSF community of potential trainees. These included graduate students, postdoctoral and clinical fellows. In the end, it was clear that one of the most important tools we had was time. Making sure that we announced open slots as soon in the cycle as possible assured that the information spread widely. We wanted to fill the slots quickly, but we also wanted to give as many people as possible the chance to put together competitive applications. Open slots were announced via the email lists of the relevant graduate and clinical programs.
As to selection, trainees were chosen on the basis of a written application. The application had several parts. The first was a 3-page summary of the proposed research project. The length enabled a clear outline of the research strategy without putting an onerous burden on the applicant. The second was the mentor’s training plan. This portion was designed to illuminate the mentor-trainee relationship and the unique opportunities that were being offered. This letter also served as one of three recommendations that were required. We also asked that Biographical Sketches be submitted by the applicant and mentor. The applications were ranked in a face-to-face meeting of the selection committee, which was composed of seasoned reviewers who have evaluated applications for all the major US agencies that fund research in the biomedical sciences. As a group, their collective expertise covered most of the scientific areas in which applications were submitted.
As the training grant wound down, the Scholars attended program activities sponsored by the Graduate Programs and Centers with which they were most closely aligned. This included the Biomedical Sciences Seminar Series. They also attended the Stem Cell Seminar Series as well as the Program in Biological Sciences offerings. They participated in Workshops and Journal Clubs that were sponsored by these programs. The retreats they attended included those held by the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, the Developmental and Stem Cell Biology Graduate Program, The Diabetes Center and the Cardiovascular Research Institute. They also presented the results of their work at national and international meetings on various aspects of stem cell biology, ranging from basic science to clinical applications.
With regard to courses, the Scholars were invited to participate in a 1-week course that the UCSF CIRM Shared Laboratory and Teaching Facility offered. They also took a classroom course in ethics and the responsible conduct of research. The course covered several timely topics: scientific misconduct (plagiarism, falsification, and fabrication of data), scientific record keeping and data management, animals in research (animal rights and welfare), human subjects in research, publication and responsible authorship along with peer review practices, conflicts of interest, mentoring and being mentored. Other coursework included the core course in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, Introduction to Human Biology and Medicine, and Tissue and Organ Biology.
With regard to administration, the Program Coordinator handled all aspects of the trainee selection process. This included taking primary responsibility for keeping track of the trainees and their terms of appointment. The Coordinator was also in charge of advertising open positions, organizing receipt of the applications, notifying the review committee and setting the meeting date. Two reviewers were assigned per application. Written comments were solicited via a review form and scoring sheet. After a face-to-face ranking meeting, the Coordinator communicated the results via e-mail to the applicants. Other administrative duties included handling all routine communications with our trainees, coordinating the submission of the annual progress reports, preparing the appointment forms, assembling the final report and collecting the various types of additional paperwork that were relevant to each application. We also had strong faculty leadership.
It was a pleasure to administer this program. The training grant benefited many scholars at different stages of the educational process. Administering the grant meant, in real terms, that the staff and faculty who were involved got to know the trainees. As a group we are proud of their accomplishments and the tangible benefits we could offer through the training grant, which enabled them to come closer to reaching their career goals.