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The University of South Alabama College of Medicine recently created the Office for Research Education and Training (ORET), offering new opportunities to undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students.
“The purpose of the Office for Research Education and Training is to provide visibility, an integrated structure and resources for research training across the spectrum from undergraduate students, to pre-doctoral graduate students to postdoctoral fellows in the USA College of Medicine,” said Dr. Mary Townsley, senior associate dean of the USA College of Medicine.
Starting this fall, ORET will develop an integrated undergraduate summer research program for the USA College of Medicine, offer new Dean’s fellowships for first- and second-year pre-doctoral students and provide career development courses and workshops.
Dr. Mark Taylor, director of the graduate program and associate professor of physiology and cell biology at the USA College of Medicine, serves as co-director of ORET for the Basic Medical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Program. His primary focus includes coordinating curriculum development, monitoring student performance, and advising students as they progress through their doctoral training.
The new one-year Dean’s Predoctoral Fellowship offers up to three $30,000 awards each year to BMS students in their second or third year of training with USA College of Medicine faculty as primary mentors.
“Medical research has become a highly collaborative endeavor,” Dr. Taylor said. “Our research training programs are designed to help trainees develop skill sets required to thrive in this multidisciplinary environment. This requires encouraging and maintaining a highly diverse environment in which students, fellows, faculty and staff from a wide variety of scientific and cultural backgrounds work in an integrated interdisciplinary professional setting.”
Dr. Tom Rich, professor of pharmacology at the USA College of Medicine, also serves as co-director of ORET for the undergraduate and graduate research training programs. He will be responsible for procuring extramural funding to support undergraduate and graduate training experiences.
According to Dr. Rich, ORET will develop undergraduate research experiences in which undergraduate students from USA and other universities work with faculty in the College of Medicine to learn cutting-edge approaches that improve understanding of biological systems.
“A critical part of these experiences will include career development activities that help students understand the array of career options and develop skill sets required to embark on research-based careers,” he said. “Critical first steps in this process include choosing and then successfully applying to competitive graduate programs. We anticipate that we will recruit a subset of students participating in our undergraduate research experience into the BMS graduate program, as well as other graduate programs at USA.”
According to Dr. Taylor, a major objective of faculty in the USA College of Medicine is developing and maintaining national and internationally recognized research programs. “ORET seeks to both support and utilize these programs to guide undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral trainees through their professional development and into productive careers,” he said.
According to Dr. Townsley, the Basic Medical Sciences Postdoctoral Graduate Program has substantial history, as it was the first Ph.D. program at USA. “The program has been effective in developing research skills of postdoctoral trainees and has seen placement of alumni in careers ranging from academia to industry, the government and elsewhere,” she said. “However, the College of Medicine has not developed a pipeline for research training leading to the Ph.D. program and predoctoral training, nor have we invested in career development. It is time to do both and ORET will provide the infrastructure for those efforts.”
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