Molecular Mycology and Pathogenesis Training Program (MMPTP)
Postdoctoral Training Programs
Mentors and Research Advisory Committees
The first and crucial priority of every trainee entering the program is to select a primary research mentor(s) and an individual Research Advisory Committee (RAC). The process of selecting a mentor is flexible. While most trainees enter the program with the clear intention of working with a particular mentor, others may rotate through several laboratories before making a decision. Regardless, after the mentor and trainee are coupled, with advice from the Executive Committee (EC), they will select a RAC of three to five faculty members. (Each RAC includes senior and junior faculty members and ideally representatives from different reserach areas. Faculty members who are not part of the MMPTP may also serve on RACs.) The purpose of the RAC is to provide the trainee with additional expertise and advice. As much as possible, the RAC is designed to guarantee the trainee’s success. The RAC members will also provide counsel and assistance in writing grants and securing a permanent position.
After selecting a mentor and RAC and establishing a project(s), the trainee will begin the research. Required courses and other activities should be accomplished at the earliest convenient time. The mentor will provide weekly if not daily feedback and guidance. The trainee, his mentor and RAC will convene to review progress and address problems every six to 12 months. At least two weeks prior to these meetings, the trainee will submit to the RAC members a written report, which might include a manuscript in preparation. The meeting itself will typically last 60-90 minutes, allowing the trainee to present an oral summary of the project followed by questions and discussion. Once yearly, the mentor will submit a report to the EC, which will conduct an annual review of each trainee.
In both Track I or II, the paramount activity of each postdoctoral trainee is the mentored research project. However, the MMPTP has designed several activities to complement the research experience. During the three years that most trainees are supported by the program, concurrent with the research, they will accomplish the following complementary goals and activities:
- Each trainee is required to take the DUMC course in Responsible Conduct of Research at the earliest opportunity. This short course is offered in both the fall and spring semesters. The course covers a variety of topics, including data integrity and reporting, authorship, animal and human subjects ( IACUC, IRB, HIPAA), conflicts of interest, mentoring and laboratory supervision, harassment, diversity, misconduct in research, and other topics.
- Most trainees will take the half-day, two-week, course in Medical Mycology that is taught in the late spring. This informal course provides an overview of fungal diseases, their epidemiology and clinical impact. The content highlights clinical controversies, areas of uncertainty, research needs, and diagnostic priorities and imperatives. In the laboratory portion, students learn to examine a variety of yeasts and molds in culture and to recognize pathogenic fungi in tissue.
- Trainees will apply in March of their first year for acceptance to the Molecular Pathogenic Mycology Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, MA, which is given annually in mid-August. This 17-day course provides concepts and practice in the manipulation, molecular tools, genetics, immunology, and genomics of medical fungi.
- Trainees attend the monthly DUMRU seminars, which are hosted by the Duke University Mycology Research Unit (DUMRU) and provide exposure to a rich variety of fungal research. These seminars alternate between presentations by eminent outside speakers and research progress talks by postdoctoral fellows. After the second year, each trainee is expected to present his or her research. In addition, trainees may attend other relevant and ongoing seminar series at Duke, UNC-CH and NCSU. Trainees also participate in relevant journal clubs and research progress seminars within the mentor’s Department.
- To prepare trainees for future careers as scientists in academia, industry, or government, they must be adept at communicating their research both orally and in writing. Therefore, at a convenient time, trainees take the DUMC four-session mini-course on Science Writing.
- To become successful independent scientists, the trainees must learn mentoring skills. To provide experience as a mentor, after completing the first year, each trainee will interview, select, train, and supervise a full-time undergraduate student in the summer. In preparation for this experience, trainees will attend an informal course in mentoring and career planning, which is organized by Co-Program Director, Patricia Pukkila at UNC-CH. In addition, most trainees will be involved in the mentor’s laboratory with ad hoc research training of undergraduate, graduate, or medical students. (Duke medical students devote their third year to supervised independent research.)
- In the last half of the training period, trainees will be offered the opportunity to acquire teaching experience by giving lectures in selected courses in the undergraduate, medical or graduate schools at Duke, UNC-CH, or NCSU.
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