Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Training Grant
Established in 1998, the Hospital's training grant in neurodevelopmental disabilities trains four MD, PhD or MD/PhD postdoctoral fellows each year in research on genetic and acquired disorders that cause mental retardation or developmental disability.
Each trainer under the grant is a faculty scientist with a record of commitment to the training of young researchers. Michael Robinson, PhD, serves as the principal investigator and program director of this grant, which funds a rich educational program that includes frequent lectures, formal courses, a clinical practicum, monthly conferences and an annual convocation of the group.
The interdisciplinary program draws faculty from the Department of Pediatrics, multiple departments in the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the School of Veterinary Medicine. The focus of the program is mental retardation caused by chromosomal defects, inborn errors of metabolism (aminoacidurias, urea cycle defects, etc.) or hypoxia and trauma (peri-natal insult, traumatic brain injury, etc.).
An executive committee selects trainees from the postdoctoral fellows who apply for the program. We particularly encourage applications from members of minority groups that are underrepresented in science. In order to ensure that the selected trainees fully take advantage of the rich opportunities that the program offers, trainees are carefully supervised and their progress is monitored with a series of obligatory oral presentations and regular written reports from both trainees and supervising trainers. Graduates of the program are expected to assume academic positions at major medical schools and to become future leaders in research involving mental retardation.
The training program is intended to facilitate the development of research skills. Therefore, the program will include:
- Development of written skills. It is expected that trainees supported by this training grant submit peer-reviewed publications and an individual NRSA or comparable grant, if appropriate.
- Oral communication skills. It is expected that trainees regularly attend the Neuroscience Chalk Talk Seminar Series that is scheduled for the 4th Thursday of every month at 4 pm in the Abramson Research Center. Each trainee is expected to present their work (planned work) once a year. Trainees should attend at least one national (or international) meeting each year and should present their work at least once during the training period at one of these meetings. The training grant will support up to $500 in appropriate travel expenses.
- Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). Fellows are required to attend a Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) course. Trainees will be contacted by the Department of Research Education to register for this day-long course. The training grant will also support the $500/year fee for postdoctoral fellows to participate in the career workshops offered through the Penn office of Biomedical Postdoctoral Programs.
- Seminar attendance. There are several different seminar series that are offered here at the Children's Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania, including the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC) Series that is scheduled for the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 12 noon (lunch is provided). Trainees should attend at least one seminar series on a regular basis. Trainees will also be asked to suggest potential speakers each year.
- Neurobiology of Disease. Each trainee will be required to participate in the Neurobiology of Disease Course offered through the University of Pennsylvania (one semester is the minimum). Individuals who have already taken this class can be exempted from this requirement. Depending upon the circumstance, this and other classes will either be taken for credit or will be audited. This can be decided in concert with the program director upon appointment.
- Exposure to clinical themes. Every Thursday morning at 8 am there is a clinical neuroscience conference in Hope auditorium in the Main building of the Children's Hospital. This conference is jointly sponsored by the Divisions of Child Development and Pediatric Neurology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Non-clinical fellows are encouraged to attend some of these conferences each year.
- Participation in a clinical practicum. After identifying the appropriate patient population, each trainee will be partnered with a clinician to observe the clinical implications of their investigative focus. Clinicians will likely be exempted from this requirement.
- Other coursework. Depending on a trainee's background, individuals will be required (or encouraged) to take graduate courses or complete a degree program. Please refer to the University of Pennsylvania Biomedical Graduate Studies website for potential courses (www.med.upenn.edu/bgs/). As part of the application process, trainees should identify courses that may be most helpful in filling gaps in knowledge. It is assumed that most trainees will not take more than one class per year (including the neurobiology of disease requirement).
Individuals interested in basic research might consider the following classes, but should feel free to identify other courses that may be better suited for their needs: Electrical Language of Cells (INSC57), Systems and Integrative Neuroscience (INSC573), Cell Biology (BIOM600), Neurochemistry/Neuropharmacology (PHARM510), Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (BIOL442), Neuropsychopharmacology (PHARM550), Advanced Behavioral Genetics (BIOL448), Behavioral Neuroscience (INSC595), Structural Neurobiology (INSC593), or Developmental Neurobiology (INSC597).
Clinicians might be interested in the Masters Program in Clinical Epidemiology or the Masters in Translational Research. Depending on the stage of training and the availability of funding, the program may be able to support a significant percentage (or all) of the tuition costs associated with these programs. This part of the training program is still under development, but there will be an attempt to have this program in place in time for at least one new trainee who will be appointed this year. If a trainee is interested in pursuing one of these degrees, this should be indicated in the training grant application.
- Mentor/co-mentor.The training program requires that trainees choose a mentor. The list of currently approved mentors is listed below.
If the proposed mentor is not currently a member of the training grant, they will need to provide their NIH biosketch, including other support. Please note that mentors must have suitable independent funding (at least PI of an NIH RO1 or RO1 equivalent) and evidence that this funding will last through the duration of the training period. This is done to ensure that trainees will have access to adequate support during their training period. The mentor should also have a history of having successfully trained other individuals; mentors not on the list need to provide a copy of their training record using the standard NIH format for training grants (please contact Melba Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org for information). It is understood that some faculty may not have extensive training records. In this case, a plan should be described that will ensure that trainees will have regular access to experienced mentors.
Trainees are also required to identify an individual who can provide additional help as they progress through the program. The individual can either serve as a co-advisor or be somebody who will commit to meet with the trainee on at least an annual basis to discuss progress with research, progress toward achieving longer term career objectives, and plans for the coming year. If, for example, a trainee writes a grant, it is expected that this person would read the proposal and provide feedback. This co-mentor should come from the list of mentors, but if this is not appropriate, other individuals can serve in this capacity. Please be sure to identify the individual who has agreed to serve in this capacity.
List of Trainers With Faculty Interests
List of Trainers With Faculty Interests
Michael B. Robinson, PhD, Program Director
Research Interests: Sodium dependent excitatory amino acid transporters
Ted Abel, PhD
Research Interests: Learning and memory in developmental disabilities
Gordon Barr, PhD
Research Interests: Environmental effects on developing nervous system
Sheryl Beck, PhD
Research Interests: Stress response and neural activity
Seema Bhatagnar, PhD
Research Interests: Neural mechanisms related to chronic stress exposure
Edward (Ted) Brodkin, MD
Research Interests: My laboratory uses methods of genetics and genomics to dissect the neurobiological pathways mediating social behaviors, including aggression and sociability.
Anjan Chatterjee, MD
Research Interests: Cognitive Imaging
Akiva Cohen, PhD
Research Interests: Cellular and circuit mechanisms of traumatic brain injury
Douglas Coulter, PhD
Research Interests: Cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying epilepsy
Thomas Curran, PhD
Research Interests: Neoplastic growth in the developing nervous system
John Detre, MD
Research Interests: Clinical applications of functional MRI
Beverly Emanuel, PhD
Research Interests: Velocardiofacial syndrome, mapping of chromosome 22
Martha Farah, PhD
Research Interests: Neurocognitive development- language and vision
Judith Grinspan, PhD
Research Interests: Oligodendrocyte development and myelination in the CNS
Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD
Research Interests: Genetic factors that underlie complex medical disorders
Rebecca Ichord, MD
Research Interests: Childhood stroke and acute brain injury
Harry Ischiropoulos, PhD
Research Interests: Nitrosylation and brain function
Robert Kalb, MD
Research Interests: Synaptic activity between neurons
Ian Krantz, MD
Research Interests: Molecular basis for human birth defects, Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS)
Daniel Licht, MD
Research Interests: Influence of congenital heart defects on fetal brain development
David Lynch, MD, PhD
Research Interests: NMDA receptors and excitotoxicity
Timothy Roberts, PhD
Research Interests: Functional neuroimaging
Robert Schultz, PhD
Research Interests: Cognitive neuroscience and autism research
Nancy Spinner, PhD
Research Interests: Notch signaling pathway, chromosome 20
Charles Stanley, MD
Research Interests: Congenital defects of glutamate metabolism
Rita Valentino, PhD Trainer
Research Interests: Biology of stress
Douglas Wallace, PhD
Research Interests: Mitochondrial inborn errors in metabolism
John Wolfe, VMD, PhD
Research Interests: Lysosomal genetic disorders that affect the brain
Marc Yudkoff, MD
Research Interests: Amino acid metabolism in inborn errors of metabolism
How to Apply
Postdoctoral candidates are selected for the training program based on an assessment of their ability and potential, as evidenced by their previous achievements in research and letters of recommendation. All prospective candidates are screened by the trainee selection committee as positions become available.
MD candidates should have had clinical training in pediatrics, neurology, neuropathology or a related field. PhD candidates should have completed their PhD in neuroscience or a related field and should have conducted neuroscience research. We encourage applications from members of minority groups that are underrepresented in science careers. All candidates must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents to be eligible for support from this training grant.
The Application for Training Grant Candidates must be completed, and the required documents provided.
Please send application materials to Melba Martinez, 3615 Civic Center Boulevard, Abramson Research Center, Room 502, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4318 or to email@example.com.