NYSTEM Training Grant Fellowship

The University of Rochester Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institute is accepting applications from PhD students for a New York State Stem Cell Science (NYSTEM) Training Grant Fellowship. The Empire State Stem Cell Board has generously provided these positions to the Institute. One of the training grant members completed the PhD very quickly, thus providing the opportunity to open an out-of-sequence slot. This slot can run for a full two years, but students who are entering their final year and would only require one year for funding would also be excellent candidates.

Applicants must be working in the field of stem cell science and must have passed their qualifying examinations prior to applying for this fellowship. Applications must be sent to Jill Van Atta (jill_vanatta@urmc.rochester.edu) by July 1st.

Award details
Use of funds: Training grant funds will be utilized to provide up to two years of support to four graduate students and two postdoctoral fellows. The second year of support will be contingent on satisfactory progress in the first year.

Graduate students will be supported at $23,000 per year, the maximum permitted in this application. Additional support in order to provide the standard University of Rochester graduate student stipends must be provided by the host laboratory, which will have to confirm the availability of funding to support the student through the completion of his/her degree.

Graduate students will also be provided a travel award of no more than $750 per year to attend one stem cell-related meeting per year. Use of these travel awards will be contingent on presentation of a poster or an oral presentation at the meeting.

In addition, the training grant will provide funds of no more than $3,450 for health insurance cost and, if funds from this amount remain, for laboratory supplies needed for the trainee’s research.

Limitations on number of awardees per laboratory: Only one trainee can be accepted per laboratory at any given time.

Application process
Application format: All applications must adhere to the following format.

  • Applications may be no longer than six pages of text. The application should follow precisely the format of an NIH R21 application. (In this regard, preliminary observations are not required for an R21 application. Nonetheless, proposals are always strengthened by preliminary observations that test the central hypothesis of the proposal.)
  • Standard formatting is to be used. (Standard NIH formats are to be used, i.e., Margins = 0.5 in; Fonts = Arial 11 or Times New Roman 12;  Arial 9 or Times New Roman 10 for Figure Legends; Line spacing of no more than 6 lines per inch. Figure legends should use Arial 9 or Times New Roman 10.)
  • Additional information required from the applicant:

    a) NIH biosketch

    b) Academic transcripts from graduate school courses

    c) Two letters of reference

  • Additional information required from the adviser:

    a) NIH biosketch (4-page format, including other support)

    b) Mentoring plan (as per NIH training grant applications)

    c) Guarantee of financial support for all aspects of the training

Evaluation of applications
The selection will be a two-tier process. Applications will initially be screened on the basis of the written submissions. The top four candidates will be invited to give a short seminar to members of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institute Training Grant Steering Committee, which will consist of a ten minute presentation with an additional five minutes for questions. In the case that further information is deemed required by the Steering Committee, candidates may also be asked to interview with individual faculty members.

The Committee review of eligible applicants is based on the quality of the applicant, his/her letters of recommendation, personal interviews, and the perceptions regarding a research career oriented towards stem cell-related investigations.

Requirements for recipients of awards:
All awardees will be required to take part in the following courses and activities:

Didactic course in stem cell biology: Beginning in spring of 2012, we will offer a graduate level course on “Stem Cell Biology,” which will be required for all trainees (and will also be open to other graduate students and postdoctoral fellows). This course, which will be headed by Dr. Chris Pröschel, will consist of lectures on a variety of aspects of stem cell biology and discussion on research papers chosen by each lecturer to complement the material in the lecture. Discussion of these papers (in a single group) will precede the formal lecture. The course is designed to cover basic principles in stem cell science, the role of stem cell dysfunction in developmental disease, potential therapeutic applications of stem cells, principles of embryonic stem cell and iPS research, and managing the transition from the laboratory to the clinic.

Along with lectures and discussion, however, trainees also will be required to submit a research proposal. The proposal may be on any topic in stem cell biology addressed in the course curriculum and will undergo three submissions. First, a two-page proposal consisting of a short introduction, hypotheses, specific aims and a short presentation of proposed experiments will be submitted. The trainee will then meet with the course instructor most suitable for evaluating their proposal and will receive feedback about strengths and weaknesses of the proposed hypothesis and research. At the next stage, this will be submitted as a four-page proposal with some expansion of the introduction but with the greatest expansion focused experimental analysis. The trainee will again meet with the most relevant faculty member and again receive feedback. In the third and final submission, the proposal will be expanded to eight pages and detailed feedback will again be provided.

Instruction in the responsible conduct of research: All students and postdoctoral fellows are required to take course IND501 (“Ethics in Research”) and to familiarize themselves with the University of Rochester policies provided in the section on misconduct in scholarship and research found in the Manual for Research and Sponsored Activities that is published by the University of Rochester’s Office of Research and Project Administration (ORPA).

 Instruction in policies regarding human subjects, live vertebrate animal subjects, and human pluripotent stem cells in research compliant with federal regulations and guidelines and NYSTEM contract requirements: All members of the University of Rochester staff are required to receive training in human subject, vertebrate animal, recombinant DNA, biohazardous materials and/or use of human pluripotent stem cells, according to the research being pursued. For example, students pursuing a course of research entirely based on mathematical or computational analysis of microarray data are not required to receive training in most of these areas. In contrast, any student using vertebrate animals must complete training provided by the University committee on animal research. Obtaining such training is a strictly observed responsibility of each laboratory.

Intellectual property: Trainees should be familiar with University of Rochester policies on intellectual property, which apply also to research conducted as a recipient of training grant support.

Training in communicating with the public about the field of stem cell science: One of the great needs in stem cell science is to be able to communicate with non-scientists about our work. As one component of this training, each award recipient will be required to write four 800 word articles per year that will be targeted for readers who are not scientifically trained. These articles will be published on the SCRMI web site.

Article topics will be chosen in consultation with the Director of SCRMI, to whom drafts will be submitted. The award recipient will then meet with the Director (or another SCRMI faculty member chosen by the Director) to discuss needed changes, and the award recipient will then rewrite the submission to address concerns related to successful communication.

The timing of articles will be staggered between award recipients so as to provide a regular flow of summaries for use on the SCRMI web site.

Participation in the annual SCRMI stem cell symposium: All training grant recipients will be required to present posters at the annual stem cell symposium to be held at the University of Rochester.

Attendance at chalk talks: Trainees will be required to attend not only the seminars of University of Rochester faculty candidates but, more importantly, the chalk talks given by these candidates (where allowed by the policies of the recruiting department). In contrast with the standard seminar setting, the chalk talk (as it is structured at the University of Rochester) tests the ability of a faculty candidate to present and defend the hypotheses underlying their proposed research and to discuss in detail a proposal for an NIH grant application. This is often is the most demanding component of the visit of a faculty candidate, and the majority of candidates – even those from highly regarded laboratories often are lacking in these fundamental scientific skills.

Evaluation of trainee progress
Evaluation of the progress of each trainee, obviously, is a primary responsibility of the trainer in whose laboratory the research is being conducted. However, to monitor progress of training grant recipients, the following will be required:

Annual public presentations: SCRMI will provide opportunities for each training grant member to present their research progress each year. This will be organized by the Program Director.

Twice-yearly meetings with the Program Director: The Program Director will meet semi-annually with each trainee in an informal setting to discuss their progress, to obtain feedback on problems and successes, and to exchange thoughts on future career options.

In addition, it will be the responsibility of trainee to inform the Administrator of SCRMI, Jill Van Atta (jill_vanatta@urmc.rochester.edu), of any public presentations they will be making at the University of Rochester so that these may be publicized to the stem cell community.

Requirements for mentors of Training Grant fellows
Faculty mentors will be required to guarantee that all support required for salary, lab supplies and meeting participation above and beyond that provided by the training grant will be provided by the host laboratory.

If an award recipient has a mentor who is not a member of SCRMI faculty, then that faculty member must join the SCRMI.

In the event that new young faculty (at the Assistant Professor level) join the University and are invited to participate in this training program, they will have their progress as mentors monitored as follows:

The trainee in a young investigator’s laboratory will meet twice a year with the Program Director and at least four members of the Steering Committee to discuss their research progress.

In addition, a trainee and the young mentor will have a senior faculty member who they can contact in case of problems in the mentoring process. Each can approach the senior faculty independently and discuss any problems in confidence. (These meetings and function can be coordinated with the student’s PhD committee by agreement where possible.) The Program Director will be informed of these discussions and, if necessary, will convene a meeting of the parties to resolve problems.






NIH Funding Acknowledgement ** Important ** All publications resulting from the utilization of CTSI resources are required to credit the CTSI grant by including the NIH FUNDING ACKNOWLEDGEMENT and must comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.